Friday, June 23, 2006

West Point Accepts First Iraqi Cadet

West Point has a long history of training selected individuals from foreign countries; it's produced two US presidents and three presidents of foreign countries (Philippines, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). Last year it accepted its first Afghani cadet, and this year has accepted its first Iraqi cadet.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The U.S. Military Academy is welcoming its first cadet from Iraq, a 19-year-old who wants serve his country's army after witnessing violence in Baghdad.

Incoming Cadet Jameel acknowledged Thursday that attending West Point posed potential dangers to him and his family in Iraq. But he said it was worth it for a chance to serve at the school, which he called "the best military academy in the world."

Jameel was interviewed on the condition his first name be withheld and no pictures were allowed. West Point officials said the conditions were set by the U.S. Army to provide security for the cadet and his family.

"If you live in Iraq, you get this determination with everyone you see dying in front of your eyes and every child slaughtered," said Jameel, whose school in Iraq was once struck with an improvised explosive device.

"You are at risk when you're walking down the street," he said. "It's better to die holding a rifle than to die walking down the street as a civilian."

Jameel comes to West Point under a long-running program that allows foreign students to come to the U.S. service academies. The Air Force Academy also is taking in an Iraqi citizen this year.

West Point is taking in 13 other foreign students this summer from counties including Cameroon, Malaysia, Rwanda and Thailand. The Air Force Academy in Colorado enrolled 20 international cadets this year, including the first from Iraq and Afghanistan. And the U.S. Naval Academy is taking in 12 international midshipmen.

The international slots, set by law, do not take opportunities away from domestic students, said Maj. Robert Romans, head of the academy's international cadet program.

Jameel on Monday will begin West Point's six-week basic training course with 1,320 other incoming cadets. Jameel says he's ready for the grueling ordeal, which includes long runs, longer marches, drilling and a lot of orders shouted in candidates' ears.

Romans said Jameel was one of four Iraqi candidates but the only one admitted. Jameel, who comes from a family steeped in military service, said his parents supported his choice.

He risked his safety during the application process by routinely traveling to a U.S. military compound in Baghdad to work on a training regimen of running, push-ups and sit-ups, Romans said.

Jameel plans to major in engineering and join the Iraqi military after graduation. He also hopes to someday meet President Bush, whom his family considers a hero after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. (emphasis mine--Darren)

"I'm going to help rebuild the Iraqi army because most of the officers now in the Iraqi army, they are not very well qualified," Jameel said. "I'll try to transfer what I learn here."

Sounds like a good kid to me, like the vast majority of cadets and midshipmen who attend our academies.

Here's some information I received in May from West Point's Director of Admissions, who gave me permission to post it here:

The Iraqi who joins the Class of 2010 had to meet the same qualification standards as all International cadets. He will join our first Afghani who was admitted last year and is now a yearling. Typically strong math skills and passable English. Department of Foreign Languages has acourse that is basically English as a second language now that bolsters spoken and written English as part of plebe year for those Internationals who need it. FYI AOG [Association of Graduates, the West Point alumni association] assisted significantly with the Afghani by helping fund a year in an English immersion program at the U of Neb Omaha before we admitted him. We have 14 Internationals admitted this year which will bring us to our by law maximum of 60 enrolled after R-Day [Reception Day, the day the new class arrives at West Point for Cadet Basic Training]. Class of 2010 looks good, will provide an update after R-Day, we're working hard on 2011 now. Thanks for all on the Forum who assist in recruiting the LGL [Long Gray Line, a name given to West Point graduates].
Additionally, a few weeks ago, a captain became the first Iraqi to graduate from our Ranger School.

Update, 6/24/06: Here's a New York Post story on Cadet Jameel. There were two quotes I enjoyed. This one:

Aside from getting a military education, his goal in America is to meet President Bush "and tell him that my mother thinks he is a prophet, because he took the devil out."

and most especially, this one:

"I can sense here the 'Beat Navy' thing is a big deal".
Yeah, Cadet Jameel, Beat 'em.

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