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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This dude displays a commitment to uniform

If you listened very closely, you could hear the “regular kid” in Steve Demetriou.

But, after nearly four years at the United States Military Academy, this U.S. Army cadet doesn’t let it show all that often.

Most of the time the firstie (a military academy’s equivalent to a senior) is a serious student heading for graduation and a career as an officer in the Army.

Demetriou has earned it.

And, now he’s telling others about it.

The 2007 graduate of University School in Hunting Valley regularly comes back to the Cleveland area on school breaks and speaks to those who might come next, urging them to follow his path and get an excellent education in return for a commitment to serve five years on active duty in the military.

Like others with recruiting responsibilities in the U.S. Armed Forces, Demetriou stresses the educational opportunities available through military service, but his message is one that also centers on development.

The Russell Township resident made it clear that he has come a long way since he entered West Point in the summer of 2007.

“I think I’m an example of somebody who wasn’t at the top of the class but got in,” Demetriou told a University School junior who dropped in to talk about the academy during a recent visit home.

Demetriou told his guest he was an average student — betraying the 3.6 grade-point average and 1200 SAT score he posted during his days at US.

He stressed his desire to accomplish something in college.

“I didn’t know anything about the military,” he said. “I knew I wanted a challenge. I feared going to a regular college with friends and getting into trouble. And I knew West Point was a good school.”

So he went through the rigorous application process that includes acquiring a nomination from a member of Congress or other official — including the president, vice president or, even more rare, an athletic recruiter who vouches for your prowess on the field.

Candidates for West Point also are required to complete a Candidate Fitness Assessment, which tests physical abilities on such activities as a one-mile run, situps, pushups and pullups.

Once in, the cadets learn immediately that “the Army’s college” stresses three major components as it molds America’s future leaders — academic, physical and military development.

Demetriou said all cadets are required to take a foreign language and study some sort of engineering. He chose systems engineering.

Physical assessments are commonplace, and scores on the tests determine your placement in jobs once you graduate. Demetriou said he will be going to Ranger school upon graduation, and a score of 300 is necessary to qualify for that training. He said 270 is the average score on the Army Physical Fitness Test. A score of 280 qualifies cadets to take part in Green Beret training.

Demetriou’s junior visitor expressed concern over the physical requirements.

“Dude, I feel you,” Demetriou said with a laugh. “I’m a stocky guy, and it was tough for me when I just got there. I’m training for a marathon now.

“Just get out there and run and you’ll get faster.”

That dent in the Army armor proved the youthful Demetriou still lurks inside the polite soldier with perfect posture and the slim build that four years of fitness tests will bring.

It peeked out again later, when he told his fellow Prepper that he doesn’t need to worry about whether he will fit in at West Point.

“Dude, just from talking to you I think you’d do really well at West Point,” he said.

Demetriou said he applies before each school break to receive permission to speak to high school students about his school.

“This is my fifth time back here,” he said. “I do it about three times a year — at Thanksgiving, during spirit week and during graduation week.”

As he prepares for his first assignment after graduation and receiving his rank of lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Demetriou said he is grateful for having taken this chance with his life.

“At West Point, you’re surrounded by more experience,” he said. “Most of the teachers are officers with multiple tours of duty on their side. In ROTC, there are maybe a couple of officers.

“The leg up is experiences. I committed to ROTC or an academy because I know it’s what I want to do.”

And, seeing Demetriou after four years at West Point, it’s clear he’s ready to lead, inspire and share the message of what he’s learned.

And, dude, Northeast Ohio is lucky to have him sharing it.

Twitter: @lauranh


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