An intimate glimpse at how the US Military Academy transforms some of America’s most promising youths into thoughtful and adaptive army officers as it moves into the 21st century.
Supplementing the dozen or so military histories prompted by West Point’s approaching bicentennial in 2002, this intriguing snapshot of the academy today focuses on its culture. Novelist Ruggero (The Common Defense, 1992), a West Point alumnus who later taught in its English department, proves himself an effective tour guide for his alma mater: the 20 years since his graduation give him an outsider’s fresh perspective, but he retains an insider’s understanding of the Academy’s values and traditions. His strategy of organizing the book around the experiences of selected individuals during the 1998 academic year sheds light on the academy’s strategy for developing future army officers and on the types of people who choose the personal challenge offered by West Point. In both cases, the author’s analysis is refreshing and encouraging. His portraits of junior staff members like Major Rob Olsen inspire confidence in the quality of personnel chosen by the army to mold the cadets. Profiling those cadets, Ruggero achieves his greatest success. He opens up the rich personal world of people like Jacque Messel as they evolve from high school students into apprentice leaders aiming to serve their nation. Books about the Academy tend toward either unabashed cheerleading or excessive disparagement. Ruggero’s engagingly anecdotal approach provides a candid update on West Point for the nation it defends.
The most honest and enlightening book about West Point published in many years. (16 photos)