Carmel Valley native named ‘Best New Cadet’ at West Point


Cadet Clayton Bernard Jaksha, son of Dr. and Mrs. Steven Jaksha, entered West Point July 2 and recently completed six weeks of Cadet Basic Training (CBT) at the U.S. Military Academy.

Jaksha earned the honor “Best New Cadet” out of approximately 1, 200 cadets from all over the country and several international countries.

CBT is one of the most challenging events a cadet will encounter over the course of their four years at the academy.

The initial military training program provides cadets with basic skills to instill discipline, pride, cohesion, confidence and a high sense of duty to prepare them for entry into the Corps of Cadets. Areas of summer instruction included first aid, mountaineering, hand grenades, rifle marksmanship and nuclear, biological, and chemical training.

Jaksha began classes Aug. 20. The West Point curriculum offers 37 majors balancing physical sciences and engineering with humanities and social sciences leading to a bachelor of science degree.

Jaksha graduated from Cathedral Catholic High School. He plans to graduate from West Point in 2016 and be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Regarding his Cadet basic Training experience, Jaksha said, “ I though CBT was challenging in many expected facets (physical training, loss of identity, lack of time); it presented as an atmosphere of growth. As a new cadet, you either had to rise to that challenge or flounder in your old identity. Many of my classmates made the mature move and made a conscious effort to ‘grow up,’ but those who failed to do so quickly changed their way or simply outprocessed.

“Albeit, the growth came with much sweat and blood (there was no time to cry) not to mention the gray hairs that rose as a result of the 24/7 stress. However, at the end of the summer as I marched back carrying our class motto, I sensed that we weren’t done. That momentary respite at the end of Beast was just the first step on our 47-month experience in our ‘rockbound highland home’ (from the West Point traditional song ‘Benny Havens, Oh!’).”

Jaksha said his academic year so far has been memorable.

“My CBT II squad leader told me that tackling those first few weeks at West Point is like ‘taking a bite out of steel. You can’t swallow everything West Point throws at you.’ As much as that holds true, adjusting to life at the Academy is moreso about proper planning and maintaining a goal-oriented, positive attitude. Everyone here is motivated by the prospect of lieutenant’s bars being pinned on their shoulder come graduation and, honestly, it would be impossible to make it through West Point without a burning desire to reach that end state.

“There’s just too much here to gripe and moan about to waste your time griping and moaning; it’s not only unproductive, it’s false. The Academy has a leader development system in place that is in a constantly improving itself; the things people complain about are actually making them better leaders for their soldiers. Needless to say, West Point isn’t easy, but it’s teaching me the lessons that I’ll need when I step in front of a platoon and, without basis, expect them to follow me.”