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Future chopper pilot first Yoakum High grad to also graduate from West Point

By Sonny Long
June 25, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.


ABOUT WEST POINT

West Point, the U.S. Military Academy, is a four-year co-educational federal undergraduate liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1802 as America's first college of engineering. Its mission is to educate and train cadets for a career as an officer in the U.S. Army. For more information, go to www.westpoint.edu.

YOAKUM - Cody Sommer has a distinction he doesn't necessarily want to keep forever.

Sommer, 23, became the first Yoakum High School graduate to also graduate on May 22 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"I hope in the future I won't be the only one," he said. "It's definitely an honor."

Sommer said he consulted Richard Caka, a Yoakum High graduate who competed the Air Force Academy, to learn what to expect at West Point.

"He said it was hard. And it was," Sommer said.

Four years ago Saturday, Sommer began his West Point career. That first summer consists of basic training. "We call it the 'beast'," he said.

A typical day at the academy begins at 6 a.m. with either duties or a workout.

Following breakfast, during which the entire cadet corps eats together in 20 minutes, classroom resumes until noon.

After lunch, also in 20 minutes en masse, cadets return to the classroom for three more hours.

Recreational activities are on the agenda from 4 to 7 p.m., then dinner and study time from 8 until midnight.

A management major academically, Sommer said the faculty at the academy was impressive.

"Most of them were captains and majors with Master's degrees and company commander experience," he said. "I really learned a lot talking to them after classes, too. They were so willing to share and I took a lot away from their experience."

The summer between the freshman and sophomore year - or as they say at West Point, between plebe and yuck/yearling - cadets take field training that includes tactics and leadership.

"When you become a junior, you help run cadet basic training," Sommer explained. "As a senior I had the opportunity to be the only lieutenant at cadet troop leader training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina."

The highlight of his time at West Point, Sommer said, came as a member of the academy's Black Knight parachute team.

"Jumping onto the 50-yard-line during the pre-game of an Army, Air Force football game in front of like 30,000 people, that was pretty cool," he said.

Asked if he could hear all those people cheering as he came down, Sommer said, "Just as you hit. You are so focused until then. But as soon as you hit, it gets really loud."

Sommer accumulated more than 600 jumps during his time at West Point.

On July 22, Sommer's first assignment will be flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., for training to be a helicopter pilot.

"I am looking forward to it," he said, adding he hopes to eventually fly either Black Hawk or Apache helicopters. "Either one would be my optimum choice, buy they don't tell you until you've completed most of the introductory rotor wing training."

Sommer said he thought taking college prep courses and being well-rounded at Yoakum High helped him prepare for West Point.

"I was in the 10th percentile all the way through high school," he said. "I think people sometimes think you have to have phenomenal academics to get into West Point, but it's not the case. What they really look for is the overall package."

Sommer's package included being a member of the National Honor Society, playing football, running track and cross country, and taking part in band, one-act plays and University Interscholastic League academic competition in accounting. He is also an Eagle Scout.

Sommer said if future Yoakum High graduates consider a military academy, he hopes they would reach out to him as he did to Caka.

"I'd be a resource and hopefully be able to help them out," he said.

One of three sons of Alan and Shirley Sommer, Cody's younger brother Brandon is a U.S. Marine and his older brother Landon is a biomedical engineer for NASA's international space station.

"I give a lot of credit to my family, all the friends and other assets I made going to Yoakum High School," Sommer said. "They've stayed in touch and keep me grounded."

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