John Blodgett, now a U.S. Military Academy cadet, sought out his high junior ROTC instructor Allen Kirksey when he returned to Maricopa for winter break.

Maricopa’s West Point cadet survived Beast and his first semester of classes.

2017 Maricopa High School graduate John Blodgett stopped by his old haunts during winter break from the U.S. Military Academy. After a summer of cadet basic training known as Beast Barracks and a semester of intense coursework, he is looking forward to “some alone time.”

That was the biggest adjustment to West Point, he said.

“There are no breaks,” he said. “No alone time. You’re always with somebody. There are room inspections for everything.”

West Point has its challenges scholastically, physically and mentally. After families drop off their freshman sons and daughters, the separation is immediate. Families get a nice tour of the military academy and an introduction to the rigors of academy life their children will face. The plebes get a ruder awakening and are pretty much yelled at by upperclassmen the rest of the day.

All military academies have a form of Beast for basic training seven weeks in summer.

“It’s go, go, go all the time,” Blodgett said, “sleeping in the rain, rucking uphill in the rain. But it’s really just learning how to be a soldier.”

Blodgett’s toughest challenge during Beast was standing around waiting, also part of a soldier’s life. He quickly realized his years of MHS cross country and track were a major advantage.

Cadet John Blodgett in his West Point dress gray uniform. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

He also discovered he was a “decent shooter” when it came to marksmanship.

He said he looks forward to being a Beast squad leader in second class (junior year), when he will have 10 cadets at his command.

Retired Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, who was one of Blodgett’s Junior ROTC instructors at MHS, said Blodgett already had the “follow me” leadership style in high school. Blodgett dropped in on Kirksey at the high school when he returned home.

“We’re proud of him. He’s looking smart and shiny in his new cadet uniform,” Kirksey said.

Blodgett said about 50 percent of his instructors are captains, and his chemistry instructor is a lieutenant colonel. Classes are intense.

“I have boxing, which is different,” he said. “We go from math to boxing to history.”

It is not unusual for cadets to wash out during Beast or first semester, but his company has stayed intact, helping each other through challenges.

“That’s what makes it all worth it,” Blodgett said.

How is he spending his two weeks at home? “Sleeping and eating.”



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