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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Jordan Young '21

The grueling brigade formal inspection has concluded. Months of preparation have come to fruition. Nervous tension rips through the brigade as the Brigade Leadership tallies the final scores. Joe Vascellaro sweats buckets under his blouse coat. Next to him, Alex Remmick shakes nervously. All of them wait in anticipation for the announcement…

Since its inception, the Top-20 selection is centered around one basic idea -- to choose the Academy’s future leaders. The selection process is rigorous, including an application -- which consists of activities, awards, and two essays -- and an interview. For this year’s interview, cadet candidates were evaluated using an objective rubric created by the technology officer, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Will Hoppe: “My goal was to make the process as objective as possible,” Hoppe claimed, “I assigned point values to even the smallest of details so that we would have a holistic baseline to go off of when making our final decisions.”

Every year, because of the talent in each class, Brigade Leadership harps on how challenging it is to select the Top-20. There are times when two cadets are almost indistinguishable on the objective grading scale, making it a difficult judgment call. “It can be really challenging to pick those last few guys because there are so many juniors that are deserving. These selections include a lot of deliberation and arguing, but we [Brigade Leadership] eventually come to an agreement on who to select. Ultimately we just hope that the juniors we pick prove us right in our decision, and the guys we don’t pick prove us wrong,” expressed Nick Horst.

And so, upon the completion of the first ever (and hopefully only ever) COVID-BFI, the Corps of Cadets shuffled into the court for formation. Nervousness and anticipation quaked through the junior class, as so many young men hoped to hear their name called when the time came. Slowly, the Top-6 made their way up to the podium to deliver the news. Deputy Commander Nick Horst cleared his throat, and nodded his head. Instantly, the familiar drumbeat of Joe Brennan’s snare drum echoed through the chamber of the court as Nick began to read the names:

Adams, Thomas Edina, MN
Bakko, Tucker Inver Grove Heights, MN
Bond, Brooks Eden Prairie, MN
Cashill, Keegan Mendota Heights, MN
Chalmers, Finn Mendota Heights, MN
Crow, Brennan Saint Paul, MN
Cunningham, Robert River Falls, WI
Feist, Maximillian Woodbury, MN
Grahme, Tyler Bloomington, MN
Kolar, Joseph Edina, MN
Korf, Matthew Woodbury, MN
MapelLentz, Jack West Saint Paul, MN
Murray, Henry Edina, MN
Nagel, Maxwell West Saint Paul, MN
Remick, Alexander Edina, MN
Rutgers, Ian Mendota Heights, MN
Sabre, Joseph Edina, MN
Schreier, Gabriel Saint Paul, MN
Strobel, John Woodbury, MN
Walsh, James Saint Paul, MN


The twentieth name had been read and the drumbeat silenced. Immediately, the court burst into applause, recognizing the outstanding new junior officers for their milestone achievement. Emotions of relief, happiness, anger, and defeat were amplified; but the list was set, the ceremony was over.

The Top-20 process is only the first stepping stone of each class’s military leadership journey, and these outstanding Cadets selected this year have an exciting, albeit difficult, road ahead of them. Next year, they will be the only class of Cadets that has experienced a full, uninterrupted, normal year at the Academy (thanks a lot COVID). It will be up to them to revive diminishing Academy traditions -- packing the stands at football games, filling Wright Lecture Hall for Lincoln Society debates -- and ensure that the lineage of Academy leaders stands strong for generations.