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Persistence pays off for future plebe

February 16, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Last year, when Alexander Gill Kline learned he missed getting into the class of 2007 of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., he was disappointed, but no less determined.

Kline, 18, of Hagerstown, was nominated by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, but still had to be accepted as one of 1,000 incoming freshmen in 2003.

"Unfortunately, I was 1,225th on that list," he said.

So Kline started his freshman year at Mount St. Mary's College last September and enrolled in ROTC. But he also reapplied immediately to West Point, starting the whole testing and interviewing process over again.

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His diligence paid off Jan. 29, when he got word that he would be heading for the military academy in June in preparation for the 2004-05 fall semester, leading to graduation in 2008.

"I was in class at Mount St. Mary's when my cell phone started blinking. After class, I listened to the message and it was Congressman Bartlett personally telling me I was in," Kline said.

Meanwhile, the Maryland congressman also had called Kline's home and talked to his mother, Theresa, who left her son a voice-mail message to call her, not even hinting at what it was about.

The idea of Kline going to West Point first surfaced when he was in eighth grade.

"My older brother, Nicholas, was working on getting scholarships to college, so I started thinking about ROTC and going to West Point," Kline said.

Nicholas Kline now is in his third year at the University of Maryland. A younger sister, Jillian, is a sophomore at St. Maria Goretti High School.

After asking around, Kline found some friends and family members who attended the military academy and they had only good things to say about their experiences.

"It sounds tough, but I am looking forward to the challenge," Kline said.

While still a student at St. Maria Goretti, Kline and his family visited the military academy.

"Actually, we were there on Oct. 11, 2001, just one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks," Kline said. "Security was really tight when we were there."

During that visit, Kline got the paperwork he needed to apply. He also got to spend the day with a plebe (a first-year cadet), visiting classes and eating dinner with 4,000 cadets, as well as guests and staff.

"They fed almost 5,000 people a full meal in just 20 minutes, start to finish," Kline said.

Kline's father, Guy, said when his son decided to try for the military academy, a file was started on him - a file that grew as he completed essays, filled out more forms, took tests and physicals, and strove to get a nomination from one of the elected officials from his home state.

"I actually interviewed with committees representing Congressman Bartlett, as well as both senators," Kline said, referring to U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

Last Thursday, Kline's father took him to Frederick County, Md., to get fingerprinted. A full police background check is next, along with getting fitted for a uniform, he said.

Kline will arrive at West Point on June 28, he said. After a week home in August, he will be back for the start of the fall semester.

Still honing his future plans, Kline said he hopes to study languages - Spanish and Arabic - as well as engineering. After graduation, he will be commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army with an obligation for five years of active duty.

"I'm thrilled and proud, but these are tough times out there," Guy Kline said of his son's future. "But I can't think of any greater opportunity, either."

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