Top Military Officer Meets Woman Seeking Brass Ring

From Associated Press

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff welcomed 895 West Point cadets to the ranks of commissioned Army officers Thursday and learned that one of them already is gunning for his job.

The ambitious cadet is Kristin Baker, 22, who rose to the top of the academy by becoming brigade commander and the first female captain of the corps of cadets.

After Gen. Colin L. Powell told the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy that the United States must maintain a strong military, even though "the prospect of peace is now more than a dream," he appeared at a news conference with Baker.

Powell noted that he and Baker had been appointed to their present posts on the same day last October. Baker then admitted having aspirations to his job.

"It takes a long time," she said.

"About 30 years," Powell said.

"See me in about 30 years," Baker replied.

Baker, born in Dickinson, N.D., de-emphasized her role as a woman in her job as brigade commander and said there was still a lot to be done for women at West Point. She called her appointment "another step in a long line of steps being taken for women" at the 188-year-old school.

Powell, 53, said that the world has changed greatly since he entered the military in the 1950s, but he advised the newly commissioned second lieutenants to recognize "what has changed and what has not. We must identify what threats have receded and which have not."

Powell said he believes Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev is "sincere in wanting to reform his country as he is in making sure it continues to play a dominant role in world affairs."

But Powell said that, despite any economic revolutions, "one fact remains: The Soviet Union will still possess thousands of nuclear warheads that can destroy America in 30 minutes. We must never allow ourselves to be at a nuclear disadvantage."

West Point's 806 male and 89 female graduates this year join a list that includes Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Women were admitted to West Point beginning in 1976. The two Rhodes Scholarships awarded to cadets this year went to women: Jennie Koch of Potomac, Md., and Carolyn Ford of Pensacola, Fla.

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