students in the class of 2009 at the Walker School in Marietta — Conner Deebel, John Herina of Woodstock, and Ross Hermann — who went to three of the nation’s most prestigious military academies.
Having graduated in the spring, Lifestyle caught up with Deebel, Herina and Hermann who reflected on their experience at United States Air Force Academy, United States Military Academy at West Point and United States Naval Academy.
All three now commissioned officers completed four years of rigorous academic, professional, moral and physical education preparing them as future leaders in the military.
“(The academy) is a leadership laboratory,” said Deebel, who attended USAF and majored in biology. He will report to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, in January for pilot training. In the meantime, he has returned to USAF Academy to complete research he started as a cadet.
“I am comfortable standing up in front of people and taking charge if I need to or sitting and listening if I need to,” he said.
Herina, who values his achievement as company commander while at West Point, said, “The experience, in conjunction with my four-year football career, gave me great insights on what leadership is all about, and how I can one day use what I learned to lead soldiers.”
Teamwork plays an important role in leadership.
“Everyone has a part to play in the big picture,” said Herina, who majored in International Relations at West Point. He reported to Fort Benning for Infantry Officer Basic Course in July. Upon completion, he will report to the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in upstate New York.
Being exposed to proven leaders and leadership philosophies makes a strong leader.
“These lessons in leadership and practical exercises in how to formulate my own leadership philosophy were priceless,” said Herina, son of Cindra and Kevin Herina of Woodstock.
Attending the academies brought personal growth for the graduates but service and love of country remain at the core.
“I definitely think that attending USNA brought a lot of growth from me. I’ve known I wanted to serve the nation ever since 9/11, but didn’t really know what it would entail,” said Hermann, who graduated with distinction and was part of a select group that started working on a master’s degree at Georgetown University during his final year at USNA. He will receive a degree in National Security Studies in December and then begin flight training in Pensacola.
“Even in my first few years in Annapolis, I felt I would simply do my service — five years for most communities — and leave to begin a new career. Eventually though, I realized that my service wouldn’t, and couldn’t, simply be about myself,” said Hermann, the son of Patty and Dr. Robert Hermann.
“I simply cannot wait to join the fleet and serve my shipmates to the absolute best of my ability,” said Hermann who was a member of 28th Company at USNA. As captain of the USNA croquet team, he led the team to a national championship and beat St. John’s in the 31st Annapolis Cup.
“I wouldn’t say my reason for going to the academy hasn’t changed but it’s definitely matured. You grow up quite a bit. My outlook on things is pretty different. I pay attention to the news now, things that could affect me,” said Deebel, son of Sandy and Rob Deebel of Marietta.
“I’m not just going around flying but also going to protect our country if I’m called,” Deebel said.
Herina said “Throughout my time at the Academy, my reason for going into the military underwent subtle changes and additions. However, my love and wish to serve the public remains the same. I cannot wait to begin my career.”
The academies prepare graduates for their military careers.
“As the Army changes in the years to come, the more important it will become for our officers to help make the transition smooth. I believe the biggest challenges I personally face lie ahead of me. And I can’t wait to face them,” Herina said.
To those contemplating this path, Deebel advised keeping grades strong, being physically fit and participating in extra curricular activities such as Boys Scouts, student government or sports. “They’re looking for the well rounded person,” he said.
“Go for the right reasons, and when you arrive, don’t forget why you are there. Regardless of whether I serve eight years or 20, I will always consider myself a soldier of this great nation,” Herina said.