Taking a Path to West Point
Accepted to 4 Military Service Academies, Natl. Capital Wing Cadet Pursues Army Dream
The notion of graduating and moving on into the adult world can be terrifying for high school seniors who have limited options and are unsure of the path in which to follow.
And then there’s the Fairfax, Virginia, Civil Air Patrol cadet who proved to be above average in the fact that he knew exactly what path he wanted to follow.
Cadet 1st Lt. Timothy Park was given multiple paths to choose from as he was accepted into four service military academies — those of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.
After much contemplation, Park decided to attend the Military Academy at West Point.
“What really influenced the decision was what happened last summer,” Park said. “I attended the summer programs at the four service academies — West Point's Summer Leaders Experience, the Naval Academy's Summer Seminar, the Air Force Academy's Summer Seminar and the Coast Guard Academy's Academy Introduction Mission Program.”
Each program lasted a week and offered incoming high school seniors an opportunity to experience campus life.
“Although each service academy was great, and I would have been honored to be a cadet or midshipman at any of them, in the end West Point was a better fit for me,” he said.
“I really enjoy history, and with West Point being the oldest service academy, it had its allure. More importantly, my squadmates and squad leader at SLE were great. We really clicked during the week and afterwards.
“My SLE squad kept in contact with each other and encouraged each other through the appointment process. Seven of my squadmates will attend West Point this summer. I think West Point's emphasis on teamwork and supporting each other was the key factor in my choice,” Park said.
Even though his father was an active-duty Army officer for 10 years and has been in the Army Reserves another 11 years, Park said the decision to attend West Point was solely his own.
“My father was very open about me going to the other service academies and told me that the decision was mine,” he said.
Lt. Col. Sean Park said despite his career and affiliation with the Army, he wanted his son to make his own path.
“To be honest with you, I tried not to use the fact that I am an Army officer to influence Timothy’s decision to attend West Point,” Sean Park said. “Yes, he was born in an Army hospital, and the Army has part of his life since birth, but I wanted to make sure he wanted to join the Army because that’s what he wanted to do.
“I would have been as proud and as happy if Timothy had joined the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy or Marines. I’ve been deployed, and I also have been assigned in Joint billets. I’ve worked with servicemembers from all the branches. We’re all on the same team in my eyes, so my preference was never for Timothy to join the Army if it wasn’t what he wanted to do,” he said.
Both father and son agree that CAP greatly influenced Park’s acceptance into the four academies.
“The key component in the appointment and nomination process for the service academies is whether a candidate has displayed leadership,” Park said. “During my multiple interviews and essays, I was able to cite the lessons I learned from my experiences during my time as a CAP cadet as examples of my leadership skills and abilities.
“From the CAP cadet program, I also learned the importance of attention to detail, working as a team and obeying orders, which are important qualities to have as a cadet candidate to the service academies,” Park continued. “On multiple occasions during my application process, I had interviewers comment on how they were impressed with my involvement in CAP.
“I believe being part of CAP was a very integral part in my offers of appointment from the service academies,” he said.
While he doesn’t think anything can truly prepare someone for the rigors of West Point, Sean Park said, he believes the CAP cadet program has given his son an advantage.
“Learning drill and ceremony, ethics and leadership skills while as a CAP cadet will only benefit him as he prepares for his new life as a West Point cadet,” he said. “I think I am most proud of Timothy’s ability to ‘stick to it.’ Applying to any military service academy is an arduous process. It is much harder and much more involved than applying to a civilian college.
“He didn’t get much sleep and didn’t have much free time, but he didn’t give up. When I was Timothy’s age, I don’t think I could have done that,” he said.
After six years in the Fairfax Composite Squadron, Park stepped down in April to begin his journey at West Point.
“I have some great memories during my time at CAP,” he said. “I remember the excitement when I wore my uniform for the first time, and marching with my squadron during Fourth of July and Memorial Day events in Virginia and Washington, D.C. I also had great times with my squadronmates learning different concepts such as character development, leadership and aerospace lessons. One of the best memories was going on my orientation flights and flying over the Chesapeake Bay.”
As a cadet Park held a number of squadron leadership positions, including element leader, flight sergeant, public relations officer, flight commander and eventually squadron executive officer. He was also Cadet Advisory Council recorder for the National Capital Wing and a logistics staff member during the 2014 Tri-Wing Basic Encampment at Camp Fetterd, Maryland.