Graduating to the U.S. Army's basic training

School's out for summer, but there will be no lazy days in the sun for Eric Youn.

The Glendale High School graduate is scheduled to report on July 2 for basic training at West Point, the military academy in New York famous for minting the elite of the U.S. Army officer corps.

“This is what I want to do,” Youn, 18, said of his unorthodox choice in college. “I want to join the military. All these sacrifices are definitely worth it.”

Six weeks of basic training will lead directly into four years of academics and leadership preparation, tuition-free. Upon graduation, academy cadets are commissioned second lieutenants in the Army and owe a minimum five years of service.

West Point, like its counterparts — the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. — is known for its tradition and rigor. First-year cadets have every minute of the day dictated to them, be it the number of chews they are allowed to consume their food or the time they go to bed.

The expectations are familiar to Youn — his older brother, Mike Youn, attended Glendale High School before being graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2010. He is now stationed in Los Angeles.

“Most people really don't know what it is,” Youn said. “But I already knew what West Point was, what a military academy was.”

He was drawn to West Point because it is the “premier leadership institution in America,” he added.

“I felt I had a debt to owe to the people who have served before me,” said Youn, who completed high school with a 4.27-grade point average.

The odds of admission to West Point are long. More than 16,000 students compete for about 1,200 slots.

The physical fitness test alone consists of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, a basketball throw, a shuttle run and a mile run. Applicants are also required to secure a nomination from a member of Congress — typically their local representative — itself a competitive process.

Gagik Gabrielyan, 18, first met Youn playing freshman football at Glendale High School. The pair spent many hours laboring over calculus homework, with Youn serving as the tutor. Youn started talking about applying to the academy his junior year.

“I knew from the second he said it, it was the perfect match for him because I can't see him in an office setting,” the UCLA-bound Gabrielyan said.

Youn spent months preparing for the fitness test, which he completed in August under the supervision of a Glendale High School physical education teacher. He submitted his application shortly thereafter, and received a tentative acceptance letter in September.

A formal admissions offer came in December, after Youn secured nominations from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California).

“It was really exciting because I didn't think I was going to get it,” Youn said. “It is really competitive to get in. It was amazing. It was probably that best day of my life.”

Sending a student to a service academy is a-once-in-every-several-years event, Glendale High School Principal Deb Rinder said.

“What an honor to be selected to go to West Point,” Rinder said. “That is just a huge personal accomplishment and I think great for Glendale High School, as well as the Glendale Unified School District.”

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