AHS trio heads off to military academies

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ARLINGTON A trio of Arlington High School seniors will soon be serving their country.
After graduation, Jake Allen will be heading off to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jeffrey Ludwig will be shipping out to the Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck, N.Y., and Brad McPherson will be departing for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Allen is already a cadet captain and teaching assistant at the AHS Air Force Junior ROTC, with a previous semester term as the JROTC squadron commander. For him, joining the Air Force is a natural extension of his goal to become a pilot.
All my grandpas and uncles served, so its sort of a family tradition, Allen said. Besides, I wanted to give something back.
Ludwigs father worked on a commercial fishing crew in Alaska for six years, which instilled in Ludwig a love of both the water and his fathers profession.
When you graduate, you get a Coast Guard endorsement to be a third mate on any size of ship, in any ocean, Ludwig said. The biggest problem when you get out is deciding which job youre going to take.
Ive always wanted to join the Army, McPherson said. My junior year, I spent a week on the West Point campus and I loved it; the curriculum, the traditions, all of it. After five years of active duty, Ill see how it goes. I might make a career out of it.
Like Allen, McPherson expressed a sense of obligation to his country for giving me a lot. McPhersons interests include engineering, medicine, chemistry and math, and out of 3,000 applicants nationwide, he was one of only 800 high school juniors to be able to take part in the week-long stay at West Point last year.
The acceptance requirements for all three academies are intense. All three boys earned nominations from U.S Rep. Rick Larsen and underwent medical examinations by the Department of Defense in Seattle. Even though the Merchant Marine is technically part of the Department of Transportation, Ludwig will be obligated to spend the next eight years after graduation serving in the Merchant Marine segment of the Navy Reserve, in exchange for his free schooling.
McPherson and Allen were required to undergo rigorous physical fitness tests. Without perfect hearing and vision, Allens dreams of becoming a pilot would never become a reality. Allen also submitted recommendation letters from coaches and teachers, while McPherson earned an early acceptance. McPherson noted that he ranked first in his class, lettered in three sports and was captain of the football team, all of which he believes helped.
When I was at West Point before, I did the best out of all 800 students there in the candidate physical fitness test, McPherson said. I love the outdoors and Im good at doing what Im told.
All three boys agreed that those interested in applying to any military academy should start planning well before their junior years.
Its hard to keep up on your paperwork, because you get stuff in the mail every day, Allen said. If you forget just one thing, it can throw you off, but if you stay organized you can get it all done and turned in on time.
Allen is the first to admit that he doesnt have a perfect GPA, but he advised his peers to take part in community service and sports to boost their chances.
Brad and I are best friends and we both know Jeff, Allen said. Weve all been in the same classes since the third grade, and now, were all going to academies. This is too weird, he laughed.

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