Dream come true: Army private accepted to West Point
CAMP CASEY, South Korea (May 20, 2015) -- It's one thing to know your dream - another to pursue it. That pursuit requires not just persistence, but the courage to believe in oneself and keep driving on.
For a young U.S. Soldier in Korea, the pursuit paid off when his dream of being accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point came true.
Originally a native of Incheon, South Korea, Pfc. Jinwon Seo moved to Albany, California with his mother and brother when he was 11 years old. It was his parents' decision to make the move so Seo would have more educational opportunities and a chance to experience a larger world.
Seo found out about West Point while looking for colleges in 9th grade and decided it was the perfect place for him. There, he could live his dream of becoming a Soldier while receiving a high-class education and competing against top-tier cadets. Since then, his goal has been focused on acceptance to West Point.
"Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be in the Army," said Seo, an automated logistical support specialists assigned to Company G, 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "Some people want to be astronauts or doctors, but I have always wanted to be a Soldier."
To meet admission requirements for West Point, Seo, then a Korean citizen, enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program to acquire U.S. citizenship.
The program, sponsored by the Department of Defense, aims to recruit legal non-U.S. citizens whose skills are critical to the Army in exchange for expedited citizenship.
After six months of basic and advanced Army training, Seo received assignment orders to his former home country of Korea and began working in the battalion's Prescribed Load List office.
"As an automated logistical specialist, my primary mission is to supply the mechanics with parts so they can fix vehicles or whatever they need to fix," Seo explained. "My secondary mission is to keep records of all the activities that go on in the motor pool. We are like the archive of the motor pool."
While working hard as a Prescribed Load List, or PLL, clerk, he never gave up on pursuing his dream of studying at West Point. Without seeking outside assistance, Seo took the initiative and began researching and compiling documents for his admission packet every free chance he had.
"It was an arduous process," said Seo. "Since the application was mainly geared toward high school students, there are some aspects of the admission process that Soldiers would have questions about."
Whenever he was worn out by the long process or felt like giving up, his mother was there to keep him motivated and focused on his life-long dream, he said.
"My mom knows how much I wanted to go and she's been even more anxious than I was," said Seo. "When applying to West Point, she pushed me every now and then when I wanted to give up."
It took five months, but in February of this year, Seo finished the admission packet and submitted it to the academy. A month later, he received notification that his dream had come true.
"I was very excited and relieved when I found I got accepted," recalled Seo. "I am very happy that all the hard work finally paid off."
According to the academy's official website, West Point boasts an acceptance rate of approximately 9 percent annually, or a total of 1,500 cadets. The academy, just north of New York City, was constituted in 1802 and has since become one of the finest military academies in the world - commissioning Army lieutenants with the highest level of education and training.
"I'm incredibly happy for him," said 1st Lt. Jason Rhinehardt, the battalion's maintenance control officer. "He wanted to take both his professional life and personal life to the next level and he identified a way to do it. You don't see a whole lot of young Soldiers who identify what they want and then actually go do it."
Seo's attitude and general approach to life distinguishes him from his peers and highlights his level of maturity and performance, said Rhinehardt.
"His whole attitude about the way he approaches his life is positive," said Rhinehardt, who submitted a letter of recommendation on Seo's behalf. "I think that's what helps him get up in the morning, come in and put in the time he does day-in and day-out. He proves himself every single day."
The experiences and knowledge he's received while serving as junior enlisted Soldier not only set him up for success at West Point, but also as a future commissioned officer and leader, said Seo.
"If I become a lieutenant after graduating, I'm going to be able to use my background as a private to get to know people better, to be able to at least connect a little bit better than other people who commission without being an enlisted member," he said.
"I'm going to be able to know what privates think, how noncommissioned officers think and how platoon leaders' and platoon sergeants' decisions affect Soldiers and how to best lead them," he added.
In preparation for the academy's six-week cadet basic training in June, Seo has been focused on improving his physical and mental readiness to surpass any task or expectation required during training.
"I've been working out in the gym more often because I have to maintain my physical readiness," said Seo. "I've been reading back on the advanced placement books I used in high school because you have to take different exams. I have to prepare myself academically as well."
Although he will have to face numerous challenges throughout the next four years at West Point, those who have worked with him showed confidence in his ability to succeed.
"I am proud of Seo for going the extra mile to achieve his goals," said Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Price, a former motor control sergeant with the battalion and one of Seo's role models. "I feel that he is very strong in his mental capacity."
"He is able to adapt to any situation with a level-minded approach," Price added, a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina. "Due to all the qualities he possesses, I think he will excel at a high rate in the Army officer corps."
Through his accomplishment, Seo hopes to inspire others, both as a Soldier who followed his dreams and a future leader who inspires troops to reach their personal and military potential.
"The biggest thing I want to do is be an example to the Soldiers who are under my command and inspire them to reach their goals, to push them beyond their comfort zone and help them to be the greatest Soldiers they can become," added Seo.