hen Ricardo (Rick) Turner was graduating from high school in Detroit he was considering going directly into the military, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Eddie Turner who was a 30-year Army career veteran.
“I didn’t want to go to college,” admitted Turner, who now leads the 4,000 strong Corps of Cadets at West Point as Cadet First Captain. “I was tired of school when I was in high school, which is kind of ironic on how I ended up here.”
At Renaissance High School Turner participated in an Army Junior ROTC program, learning about West Point from Major James Clarahan, his military science instructor during his junior and senior year. Major Clarahan is a 1979 graduate of the Academy.
“Once I got to know him as my teacher, I began talking to him about West Point and developed an interest,” said Turner, who served as the commander of Cadet Basic Training this past summer before being selected First captain, the highest cadet military rank. “I wanted to do something where I could give something back and still go to college at the same time and I couldn’t think of anywhere else but going to the Military Academy.”
When Rick Turner decided to give West Point a chance and apply for admission, Eddie Turner challenged his son, pointing out the difficulty Rick would face at West Point, and questioned whether or not his son could handle the pressure.
“You should consider going to a state university,” said Eddie Turner, the retired enlisted man. “You are not cut out for West Point.”
The young Turner quickly brushed his father’s challenging warnings aside.
“Dad, I don’t care what you say, I am going anyway,” said Rick politely.
Eddie Turner smiled. He had wanted to make sure Rick Turner was going to West Point for the right reasons. And, he also knew his son was making the right choice.
“I think the reasons for staying at West Point are more important than your reasons for coming,” says the West Point First Captain. “Often times folks come here for different reasons, whether their parents came here or they wanted a free college education. Those materialistic reasons won’t keep you here. I have developed since coming to West Point. The idea of serving a greater good is the reason that has kept me here.”
Turner entered West Point after 10 months at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at Fort Monmouth, NJ. He admits his SAT scores were not high enough but he managed to gain an appointment to the Prep School.
That also has its advantages.
“You learn different aspects about the military,” says Turner, “the physical part and the professional part. I also learned time management. You also come into West Point with a circle of friends that you don’t have coming in from high school. Some people may not think that is important, but with the rigors and the stress here at the Academy, it is nice to have someone you know who you can talk to who has been through the same stresses and rigors you are going through.”
Rick Turner’s future is now in full focus. He will select the Infantry branch of the Army to launch his military career and hopes to serve either in Hawaii or Fort Campbell, Kentucky after graduation.
Each year there are more than 1,200 stories such as Rick Turner’s, outstanding young men and women who accept the West Point challenge. Over 10,000 students apply for admission. About 3,600 receive nominations and 2,300 are normally qualified to fill a class of about 1,200 to 1,300 cadets.
To join the Long Gray Line write to the Director of Admissions, U.S. Military Academy, 646 Swift Road, West Point, NY 10996. Visit our website at www.usma.edu/admissions. By Joseph Dineen, Admissions Office