One of West Point’s newest incoming cadets is a Grove City High School senior who is really looking forward to joining the historical military academy.
“You become part of something that’s far greater than yourself,” said Gabriel “Gabe” Nichols, 18.
During a recent Zoom video chat, he explained the rigorous application process and what’s ahead for him at the U.S. Military Academy West Point. He was joined by his parents, Steve Nichols and Dr. Constance Nichols.
They live in Pine Township and the family includes Gabe’s two siblings: his twin brother Ben, and their sister Abbey, 16.
Gabe has several family members who have served in the military, which was part of his inspiration to look at military academies.
“Gabe has always had an affinity for the military,” Nichols said.
He felt that an institution like West Point would be a good fit for him because he considers himself to be strict, dedicated and determined – just a few of the qualities that the academy looks for when reviewing applications.
He discussed the idea with his grandfather, Jim Nelson, who served in the Army. At the time, Gabe was considering both West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Nelson recommended West Point, which is based in West Point, N.Y., because of its prestigious reputation.
Nelson passed away in May, well before Gabe received confirmation of his acceptance.
He was confident he had a good shot at being accepted by West Point and continued working on his application, which he started in March 2020.
Part of the process requires a congressional nomination from someone like a U.S. representative or senator.
Gabe was nominated by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly for West Point and the Air Force Academy. Gabe told the nomination committee that he would serve the Army in whatever way they needed him.
That’s who he is – always willing to go where he’s needed to help however he can, Dr. Nichols said.
The application process also includes a physical exam to ensure the applicant is medically qualified; essays on several different topics; and recommendations and evaluation from teachers, whom the applicant cannot personally select.
It’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of steps, Nichols said.
Applicants must also be a U.S. citizen, and must be unmarried with no children.
Gabe kept his focus on West Point as he started his senior year at GCHS, where he runs cross country. He’s also been part of the track team and marching band.
He was recruited by West Point coaches to run track and cross country for the academy, and he knew that would give him an opportunity to run with a great team at a great school while learning how to become the best leader possible.
The coaches kept in touch with Gabe throughout the application process, and he was able to tour the campus with his parents.
West Point is on the National Register of Historical Places, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Situated on the west bank of the Hudson River, Gen. George Washington considered it to be the most important strategic position in the country, according to West Point’s website.
Fortification were built and Washington moved his headquarters to West Point in 1779. It is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the country, and notable graduates include George Custer, a Union cavalry commander in the Civil War; Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War; former U.S president Ulysses S. Grant; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
His mother is glad that he looked beyond athletics when considering his academic future, and his father said he meets many of West Point’s guidelines.
“They’re a soldier first and athlete third or fourth,” Nichols said.
Gabe received a “letter of assurance” from West Point in November and his official acceptance in January.
He and his family are very excited, and he knows that his grandfather would be proud of him.
Gabe is scheduled to arrive at West Point at the end of June for six weeks of basic training.
He has yet to decide what major he wants to study, but he is interested in computer science.
He might like to pursue a career in the Army as an officer. When he graduates from West Point, he will immediately begin his military service as a second lieutenant in the Army.
“That really is what West Point is all about,” he said of taking on a leadership role.
One of his uncles, Jeremy Miller, was a colonel for the Army Rangers, and he’s stressed the idea of “we before me” and the importance of having motivation in order to lead.
Committing to West Point means that the academy covers the cost of his education. In return, Gabe owes the Army five years of active service and three years in the reserves.
Attending the academy is a large investment by the federal government and the taxpayers, and he is ready to take on the challenge.
Gabe is very thankful for the support of his family, friends, coaches, teachers and other staff members at Grove City schools.
“It was nice to see he recognized he didn’t get there alone,” Mrs. Nichols said.
He thanked his brother for encouraging him to take up running – Ben will be studying pre-med at the College of Wooster in Ohio – and his parents for pushing him to pursue his interests.
Some parents are nervous when their kids head out into the world after high school, but the Nichols family knows their children are well-prepared to take the next steps.
The community, school district, friends and relatives have had a big impact on who they are, Mrs. Nichols said.
“I just feel this great sense of gratitude,” she said.