Serving Chamblee, Serving America: Chamblee Alumni at Military Schools

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Serving Chamblee, Serving America: Chamblee Alumni at Military Schools

Paris Williams and Beining Xiao at the annual Army v. Navy football game

Paris Williams and Beining Xiao at the annual Army v. Navy football game

Photo courtesy of Paris Williams.

Paris Williams and Beining Xiao at the annual Army v. Navy football game

Photo courtesy of Paris Williams.

Photo courtesy of Paris Williams.

Paris Williams and Beining Xiao at the annual Army v. Navy football game

Maya Torres, Staff writer

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This article is part of a series on college life for CCHS alumni. The other stories can be viewed here

Graduates of Chamblee Charter High School face difficulties regardless of what they decide to pursue, for every job and university presents a unique set of challenges for young adults. Perhaps the most distinctive trials and tribulations are those that face students enlisting into the military or attending a military university.

Paris Williams graduated from Chamblee in 2018 and is currently in her freshman year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a military school affiliated with the Army branch of the U.S. military. Unlike students at an average university, Williams deals with a more rigid schedule.

“I wake up around six every morning to do ‘plebe duties,’ which are just chores that the freshmen have to do, such as sweeping, cleaning, taking out the trash, or delivering laundry. Then we go to morning formation and breakfast,” she said. “Following breakfast, I go to class. We have formation for lunch and all eat lunch together. Then, there are afternoon classes.”

This semester, Williams is taking chemistry, multivariable calculus, literature, information technology, military science, and Latin American history.

“After classes, we are required to do some sort of physical activity, which usually involves working out or being a part of a sports team. I am on the competitive climbing team, so I go to practice every day from 4:30 to 6:30,” she said. “After that I eat dinner and shower, then freshmen and sophomores have evening mandatory study period from 7:30 until we go to sleep.”

2018 Chamblee graduate Alex Harding is an E-3 Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, and has a slightly different schedule.

“My typical day is working with radios, making sure they work, establishing communication, and calling in fire support from the navy ships,” he said.

A military schedule is wildly different from the schedule of an average high school graduate.

“A military academy’s atmosphere is a little bit different from a regular college. Our goal is to create leaders [or] officers of character at the United States Air Force Academy,” said 2017 Chamblee graduate Emari Hill, a sophomore at the Air Force Academy. “To do that, we have leadership course[s] that we take on top of our regular school work. We have other jobs to do around the Academy as well, depending on class.”

This lifestyle is difficult for students before they adjust to it. James Gibbs, who graduated in 2018, attends the Citadel in South Carolina.

“[The Citadel] is a senior military college, so it’s not exactly like an academy such as West Point,” he said. “However, it’s still very different from a normal college. The day to day life was tough at first, but once you learn to manage your time it becomes much easier.”

In the summer after their senior year, each student focused on their physical fitness in order to prepare for time in the military.

“I went to cadet basic training this summer, which involved physical training every day and required general physical fitness to complete the tasks and training required of us,” said Williams. “To prepare, I ran and did push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups but also lifted weights to ensure that I was in good condition for military training.”

Hill faced similar training in preparing for the Air Force, but also spent some of his time researching the academy.

“For a student seeking an education from a military academy, I’d tell them to research what major they would like to pursue and what they would like to do in the service they choose,” said Hill. “Also be ready for the rigor involved with coming to an academy. There’s a lot of extra stuff that we do here at the Air Force Academy that doesn’t appeal to everyone. But overall just have a plan or purpose for being here and stick with it!”

It is also important for students to assess their options, to be absolutely sure that the military is the right option for them.

“It often seems like a lot of my peers here were starstruck by the idea of attending one of the ‘academies’ and are now having second thoughts,” said Williams. “ROTC as well as smaller military schools are also great options and produce amazing officers.”

For students contemplating joining any of these options, Williams suggests development of work ethic and time management skills.

“Having self discipline and knowing how to hold yourself accountable makes being correct or disciplined by others a whole lot easier,” she said. “Take the responsibility to develop yourself.”

If Williams proceeds to graduate from West Point, she will be required to serve in the Army for five years. Similarly, Gibbs has an obligation to enlist after graduation due to a scholarship granted to him by the Army. Harding plans to stay with the military for the foreseeable future as well, predicting he will be in the Marines for eight years. Hill wants to pursue pilot training and become a pilot in the Air Force. All three found that their time in the military became easier as they continued their service.

“The most important thing is to go with a open mind,” said Harding. “If [you] think it will be terrible, it will be. It sucks at first, but it gets so much better.”