GLENVILLE — As many college and high school commencements were canceled or scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic, one tradition continued at the U.S. Military Academy for 2nd Lt. Benjamin Schiher, 21..
Despite being forced to return to the Capital Region in early March as the West Point campus was closed, Schiher returned and was among the class of 1,107 cadets to hear an address from President Donald Trump on June 13, continuing a tradition at West Point since 1802.
“Our superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams said, ‘As superintendent I am not going to let this global pandemic stop the long gray line,’” Schiher said during a phone interview from his home in Glenville. “I think that is a pretty important statement to show the resilience of West Point.
“The senior leadership did an outstanding job keeping us safe and having a very clear, directive approach to how we are going to follow social distancing, the isolation period, etc.
“It also helped that we had the discipline and I think that’s what allowed us to have a wonderful day on June 13 for graduation.”
Like thousands of other college seniors, Schiher had his spring plans cut short his life diverted. He completed his systems engineering major and cyber security minor studies at his home in Glenville.
Like many seniors, Schiher wanted to celebrate the end of 47 months at West Point with his fellow cadet’s and Division I-AA rugby teammates.
“I wasn’t scared about the commencement speech, but I was upset about the opportunity to not get some closure with my friends,” Schiher said. “Luckily, being able to return to West Point we could have from May 28 to June 13 to say goodbyes.”
Schiher has a leg up on many graduates, with a set career path laid out for him.
“The West Point tuition is all paid for, generally I’m coming out of West Point debt free, but at the end of the day the more pressing matter is that I now have a responsibility as well as the privilege in serving the United States Army and being a lieutenant and future platoon leader.”
Schiher and his class are granted up to 60 days of leave before reporting Aug. 11 to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to complete the engineer basic officer’s leaders course. Then he will report to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he will be part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regiment.
“I thought that branch was an outstanding fit for being able to adapt to whatever the world is encountering right now,” Schiher said. “I know there is a lot of engineer units right now helping set up coronavirus response and being rapidly set up, treatment sites, etc.
“I’ve seen a lot of it on social media from following the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, so it’s a really cool opportunity to see the branch upon which I am about to enter is having a pretty quick response time in managing this current scenario.”
Schiher has a five-year active duty commitment then three additional years in the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I’m going to stay in for eight to get the opportunity to lead soldiers both on a platoon level and hopefully the company level and have that experience, which I think is an outstanding opportunity,” Schiher said.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.