The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Life as a 'Plebe'

  • Over a dozen times a day, Savannah Baker stands on top of a wall and hollers.
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  • Over a dozen times a day, Savannah Baker stands on top of a wall and hollers.
    She shouts how many minutes her fellow cadets have until their next formation, how many days until the next big game, and what's for lunch.
    But calling "minutes," which is what this wall-top exercise is called, is only part of what sets Baker apart from other freshman college students. She walks everywhere with her hands cuffed behind her back. She doesn't speak when outside. And she walks along that same wall to move around campus. When she violates one of the rules, she must write pages of "lines."
    This is Baker's life as a "plebe" – or 4th class cadet at the United State Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
    In the hierarchical tradition of her new home, Baker says she is "the lowest of the low."
    But she has adapted to juggling her class requirements with taking out the older students' trash every night and doing all of their laundry. She even manages to set aside two hours every day for cheerleading practice.
    "I don't mind the regimented lifestyle," says Baker. "I honestly don't mind it — because I grew up in a military family. And I think without it, it would be really hard to get good grades and maintain everything."
    At the same time, she also says "I've been here a long time," with a chuckle.
    Besides being a stand-out student, cheerleading is one of the few routines Baker has kept from her former life as a Lansing High School student.
    Baker has participated in competitive cheerleading since she gave up competitive gymnastics her sophomore year in high school, when she signed up with the local club KC Cheer.
    With KC Cheer she competed nationally at level five competitions, the highest level attainable.
    Baker has participated in world-wide cheerleading competitions repeatedly, earning titles from JamFest Nationals, NCA Nationals, and several other groups.
    While at Lansing High, Baker also won track and field titles. She was originally recruited by West Point for the track and field team. After spending the summer honing her jumping and sprinting skills in track training, she decided to try out for the cheerleading team as well.
    Now she has to make the tough decision of which sport she will pursue, because school requirements and the bruising plebe schedule will only allow one.
    "Probably the hardest thing," Baker says, "is time management, and the juggle between doing sports and coming back and having to do duties, doing minutes."
    Baker always wanted to do some sort of military training after high school, but wasn't sure at first if she would pursue ROTC at a non-military school, or attend a military academy.
    Page 2 of 2 - She says she was "brought up in an Army family," and "didn't really know anything else."
    And her family's influence was key when it came time to make a decision.
    "My dad went [to West Point], so that was a big influence," says Baker.
    But, she says, "Probably the main reason I came here is because West Point provides a great opportunity and sets me up for my life after college … I've always wanted to be an officer, just didn't know which route. West Point provides the best route to becoming a successful officer."
    Just a few months into her first year, Baker is not yet ready to commit to a major, but is leaning towards a medical field.
    "As of right now that is what I want to do, but I know in the next four years it will probably change," she says.
    Baker is also unsure of what she'd like to purse in her post-West Point military career, or even what branch she'll join, but she thinks she has pilot-training in her future.
    Now, however, she is just working to get through the first semester away from home.
    "I miss — at my house we have a pond", Baker says. "(I miss) sitting on the porch. I miss the sunsets really. And being able to relax and go out and do whatever you want."
    Luckily she will only be a plebe one year. Currently, she has to wear her full uniform every day. Next year she can look forward to polo shirts and sneakers. And a chance to torment the new class of first-year students.
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