St. Al grads choose post-graduation U.S. Military Academy assignments

Published 7:04 pm Friday, February 8, 2019

The room full of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy hooted and cheered as the first of their classmates selected their assignments on Post Night.

When Luke Eckstein made his pick, he brought the house down.

Eckstein, a St. Aloysius graduate, opted for an assignment with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany. What got everyone excited was that it came with an extra three years of duty — eight instead of the standard five — that Eckstein could have easily passed up to go somewhere else.

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Eckstein said a combination of wanting to work with that regiment, the chance to serve overseas, and his plan for his career in the U.S. Army made it an easy choice. He’ll spend three years in Germany, likely starting in February 2020 after he graduates from West Point and undergoes additional officer training, before possibly moving on to his next assignment.

“This is the only time you’re going to have a lot of control over your assignment, so it was worth it,” Eckstein said. “For me, the earliest I would consider getting out is after getting a company command and this would take me through that.”

Post Night at West Point is the academy’s version of the NFL draft. Graduating cadets selected the branch of the army they want to serve in back in November, and on Wednesday got to pick from several dozen assignments available in each branch.

During the ceremony, each cadet walked one by one onto a stage where cards designated for each assignment were taped to the wall. They then plucked the one they wanted as classmates cheered them on.

Bash Brown

Cadets select their assignments by class rank. Eckstein is fifth out of 115 engineers in the Class of 2019. Assignments in Europe, Alaska and Hawaii are considered the best among cadets, and two standard assignments in Germany were selected just before Eckstein walked onto the stage. So, with a quick glance at the board, a smile and a playfully dismissive wave, he walked to another set designated as Post Additional Service Obligation (PASDO) assignments.

PASDO assignments have the extra three years of service attached to them.

Luke Eckstein

Eckstein plucked the Germany card off the PASDO board as the room erupted in cheers.

“For whatever reason, they thought that was exciting,” Eckstein said with a laugh. “Some people aren’t as comfortable taking on the extra three years.”

Eckstein was, though, and got an assignment he wanted. Last year he trained with a unit that uses Stryker armored fighting vehicles, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is also a Stryker unit.

“I spent time the previous summer working with a Stryker unit and I really liked what they do,” Eckstein said.

Eckstein’s West Point and former St. Al classmate Bash Brown is serving in the infantry and picked a spot with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.

The 10th Mountain Division is an elite light infantry unit that receives specialized training in mountainous and arctic warfare. Since 2001, it has been the most deployed unit in the United States military, with more than 20 deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brown joked that as a Mississippi native he would have to learn to deal with the cold, but was happy and proud to join such a well-regarded outfit.

“For me, the most important thing was going to a light infantry unit. I spent a lot of time with the officers at Fort Drum. It’s colder than I would have liked, but it’s a good unit,” Brown said. “It’s not as envied a post as (Fort) Bragg or (Fort) Campbell, but it’s recognized as one of the best units in the Army.”

Brown will also graduate with the 2019 Class of Cadets in May. He’ll then head to Fort Benning, Georgia, for an additional year of officer training and ranger school before joining the 10th Mountain Division in April or May 2020.

“I couldn’t be more excited. At some point I’m a little star struck because it feels like I just got here,” Brown said. “The biggest thing to me is going to a light infantry division. Not everybody gets the opportunity to go light, and that’s what I was looking forward to.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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