GFHS student accepted to West Point

by Sarah Dettmer, Great Falls Tribune

Where are you from?

There it is. The most dreaded question for a military kid. But without wavering, Great Falls High School student Cassie Reed says, “Montana.”

Her answer is definitive despite having moved seven times around Montana, Florida, Kansas, Germany and Washington.

That’s because Cassie is a driven 17-going-on-18-year-old who knows who she is, what she wants and how she’s going to get there. It’s no wonder she has been accepted into the prestigious U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

West Point has a challenging 9 percent acceptance rate and just over 20 percent of students are women.

Cassie was awarded a congressional nomination from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and also received a presidential nomination because her father, James, is a disabled veteran of two foreign wars. James was enlisted in the Army for 12 years and then served as an officer for another six.

Though she’s going Army like her dad, Cassie said she will try to branch into Military Intelligence.

“My dad is retired Army, so we moved a lot and I was exposed to the Army life,” Cassie said. “When I moved here in middle school, I made the decision that I wanted to go to the Academy.”

Cassie moved to Great Falls, her mom Jennifer’s hometown, two months shy of the end of eighth grade. As soon as she started high school, she challenged herself to be the best student possible to meet the rigorous requirements of West Point.

She served on student council, became part of the National Honors Society, took part in the Key Club, and participated in track and basketball- all while hitting the gym four to five times a week, maintaining a 3.9 GPA and scoring a 31 on the ACT exam.

Cassie sits at the dining room table in her Nana’s house with her dad. As she talks about her achievements and ambitions, James nods along-stopping her when she’s too modest and correcting her when she’s not being exact enough.

With close-cut hair and matter-of-fact demeanor, James is the quintessential military dad, and Cassie often looks to him for guidance. As she speaks, hey eyes bounce over to him for reassurance.

But she doesn’t need to. Though he has reservations about his daughter joining the military, he can’t stop bragging on the successes of his ambitious daughter.

“These are the cream of the crop, the best students every state has to offer,” James said. “They’re students of her caliber – physically and mentally – now she has to stand out against them. She was still challenged in Great Falls, but now she has to succeed against a school full of people at her level.”

Cassie said she loves Montana, it’s her home base and the place she always seems to come back to, but she’s ready to move on to bigger things. She was also accepted into the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana.

However, Cassie said, she weighed her options and ultimately decided West Point was where she belonged.

“When I was little, I wanted to travel and be a photographer or something,” Cassie said. “I don’t know if it’s from moving so much. I just knew that in the long run I couldn’t stay in Montana forever. I love it, but I can’t stay.”

The two options gave her different feelings and, always ready to accept a challenge, she went with the one that scared her the most.

“I’m really nervous,” Cassie said. “I think most people are lying if they say they’re not scared to go. There’s a lot expected of me and I want to do well. Thinking about going to Missoula, I wasn’t nervous. It didn’t present a challenge. I know at West Point I’ll be challenged to grow and I’ll succeed more.”

Cassie will report to West Point on July 3 and will immediately be thrown into the rigorous lifestyle of the school. She will immediately partake in the “Beast,” a six-week intensive military training course. James said the Beast will weed out some of the students.

After Cassie makes it through the six weeks, she and her fellow students will march back into the Academy while the upperclassmen cheer them on.

Cassie won’t know her official branch until her senior year, but she hopes she can prove herself and make it into Military Intelligence.

“My main reason, and what I’m so excited about, is to be able to be a part of something more,” Cassie said. “I want to be part of worldly events and make a difference, not just going along with it. I want to be part of something more.”