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West Point

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Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory instructs Dylan Hill (center) and Joseph Rice at Maricopa High School. Photo by Victor Moreno

Faced with the choice between U.S. military academies that had accepted her, Maricopa High School graduating senior Dylan Hill announced her decision this month.


“I chose West Point because I view it as an excellent institution for teaching people how to lead and, in addition, has a wide array of things to study and participate in,” she said.


Hill had also been accepted into the Naval Academy.


“Overall, I think that this school will challenge me greatly, whether through tough academics or military training, helping me to gain experiences to draw upon once I become an officer,” she said.


The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was established in 1802. To be accepted, applicants must meet academic, leadership and physical requirements and receive a nomination from a member of Congress. Hill was nominated by U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran.


Hill has been a leader in the MHS Air Force Junior ROTC.


“I have been physically preparing for cadet life and training by expanding my physical training schedule and increasing intensity,” Hill said. “But overall the best preparation I have done is multitasking and maintaining things like grades, work, and extracurriculars since West Point is known to challenge one’s ability to manage time effectively.”


Hill will be the second MHS graduate in two years to be accepted into West Point. Cadet John Blodgett just finished his first year.

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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Cadet Major John Blodgett (center) was recognized at meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Wednesday - from left, board members Joshua Judd and AnnaMarie Knorr, Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, board member Gary Miller, board President Patti Coutre, Superintendent Steve Chestnut, board member Torri Anderson and CTE Director Michele Shaffer. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Senior John Blodgett was recognized by the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Wednesday after being appointed to West Point Academy. Set to be the co-valedictorian for the class of 2017, Blodgett is a cadet major in Maricopa High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC, a member of the National Honor Society and a student tutor.

From JrROTC instructor Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey: “He’s a teacher assistant as well. He is part of the first robotics team in Chandler, a member of the Si Se Pueda Foundation, which is a bridge-builder and leader providing programs improving the quality of life for communities, families and children here in Maricopa and in Chandler, empowers children and families to participate in science, technology, college readiness as we mentioned earlier, mentoring, sports, neighborhood revitalization, the arts, lifeskills, education, and in his spare time he tutors. We’ve had the distinct honor of having him in our program for the past four years. I’ve been there since April, and this is his first full year with me. I suspect he’s going to tell you he lost a little bit of weight with me. The position that he held with us was division support squadron commander. The reason I’m saying commander with emphasis; this young man is going to be a commander some day. We have a couple of sections that work underneath him, and those sections were crucial to us passing our ROTC inspection. All the activities I’ve described were accomplished while remaining at the top of his class, currently ranked No. 1 out of 448, and he’s a Boys State delegate, so congratulations to Cadet Major John Blodgett.”

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John Blodgett

Maricopa High School senior John Blodgett has received not one but two appointments to U.S. service academies.

Appointments are prestigious and exclusive. Competition is fierce just to get a nomination, which comes through a member of the U.S. Congress. The service academies then decide the appointments.

In Blodgett’s case, appointments came from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy, presenting him with a rich choice for his future.

Blodgett is a cadet captain in MHS’s Air Force Junior ROTC program. He has been in the program for four years and is commander of the Mission Support Squadron. His instructor said working with Blodgett has been “a treat, a reward.”

“Oh, how refreshing it is to see Maricopa High School AFJROTC cadets that are passionate as well as professional about their role in defense of the United States and their community,” senior aerospace science instructor Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey said.

Nominations involve academic achievement, extracurricular activities, leadership skills, physical aptitude, character and motivation.

“Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory and I have been mentoring Cadet Blodgett for the past year promoting academic

Blodgett has been a leader for the MHS cross country team. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Blodgett has been a leader for the MHS cross country team. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

excellence, leadership development, and officer career exploration and have seen his continuous growth and development,” Kirksey said. “Without a doubt, he is ready now for increased responsibilities as a West Point cadet.  He has learned how to take charge, demand the best of himself, accept responsibility, the importance of teamwork (leadership and followership), the value of diversity, and the ability to make a difference in his life and the lives of others.”

Blodgett has been a member of the cross country and track teams four years, competing in the state cross country meet the past two seasons. He received the RAM Leadership award four times – three in cross country and once in track.

He is a member of the National Honor Society, and this year is the club treasurer. He is a LINK leader, helping to mentor a group of 11 MHS freshmen, and a teacher assistant for the Career, College and Technology class. Blodgett is also a member of the Robotics team.

Kirksey said Blodgett’s “follow me” style of leadership was “nothing short of exceptional.”

After four years of education and training, academy graduates are obligated to serve in the military for five years. An academy enrollment has been valued by the Government Accountability Office at over $350,000.