Hill excels in academics, athletics at military academy

PARKERSBURG-Madison Hill of Parkersburg is excelling at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

As a sophomore this past academy year, Hill, a 2011 graduate of Parkersburg High School, was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll for the second consecutive year and to the All-Patriot League second team in cross country. Hill was Army’s top finisher in four of her six cross country races, finishing in the top two in all six races, according to the academy’s website.

She is participating in indoor and outdoor track, besides cross country, and had a 3.796 grade point average for the 2013 fall semester. Her favorite running distance is 6K, or about 3.8 miles.

Hill finished first among 50 cadets selected – out of 150 who tried out-to spend three and a half weeks this summer working with officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey, England.

To qualify for the trip to Sandhurst from July 1-23, Hill competed in the Military Individual Advanced Development at West Point in November. Tryouts consisted of a standardized fitness test involving push-ups, situps and running, pull-ups, an eight-mile ruck march, an indoor obstacle course, a swim test, and a leadership reaction course, Hill said.

“We spent the first four to five days preparing to deploy on Exercise Dynamic Victory,” Hill said in an email about the Sandhurst visit. “Dynamic Victory was the final graduation requirement for British cadets, as they will commission within the next two weeks. For American cadets, it was our cadet leadership development training.

“We spent the two weeks of the exercise on the U.S. military training areas of Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels (in Germany). For the exercise, American cadets were fully integrated into the British companies and platoons,” Hill said.

Leadership positions within the platoons rotated on a daily basis between British and American cadets.

During the first day of the exercise the Army cadets watched live cavalry and artillery demonstrations. The next three days were spent doing live-fire exercises, working up from individual live fire, to platoon level live fire.

“We finished this stage of our exercise with a company level assault on a village. We spent the next three days on a FOB (forward operating base) where platoons rotated between patrolling and security,” Hill said.

This was followed by three days in the rural phase where the cadets conducted rural missions. The entire exercise ended with a battalion-level attack on a village, Hill said.

“Upon the completion of the exercise, we spent a day in Nuremberg (Germany) where we toured the courthouse of the Nuremberg trials and then a Nazi rally site. We spent the remainder of our time at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where the American cadets took day trips to London,” Hill said.

Hill said she enjoyed the experience at Sandhurst. She said the military training was realistic and the British cadets had a sense of humor.

Before traveling to Sandhurst, Hill spent three weeks studying French at Ecole de gendarmerie de Rochefort in France. Situated on the military installation, it is an international language school for military officers from around the world learning the French language.

The course’s primary purpose is to provide officers with their last language training before they become French teachers for their respective military, Hill said. For the West Point cadets, “it was used to advance our language skills while earning credits. I met officers from around the world-Nigeria, Ghana, Lebanon, Vietnam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Madagascar, to name a few.”

Hill, 21, is the daughter of Trampus and Susan Hill of Parkersburg and is starting her third year at West Point.

Hill said she enjoys the quirky traditions at West Point, such as standing on the mess hall tables and chairs during the Christmas celebration and singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” as a corps.

She also liked the spirit missions as a plebe (freshman) where cadets sabotage other companies by stealing their mascots or doing other mischievous things, she said.

“My other favorite parts of West Point are the summers whenever I don’t have to worry about writing papers or doing homework, and I can concentrate on military training,” Hill said.

“I love West Point. There are a lot of hard days when I’ll call home to my parents upset because I’m stressed out. Plebe year my main struggle was a combatives class. I am wretched at boxing and grappling, so getting beat up every other day was stressful.

“Last semester, ‘survival swimming’ was my challenge. I am not a strong swimmer, so adding on a uniform, boots, rifle, FLC Army vest and weights didn’t help,” said Hill, who was in her hometown last week visiting her parents.

“But overall, I couldn’t think of a place where I would love to be more. I have had great professors (who love to show military YouTube videos and talk about the Army). I have a great (track) team, full of a lot of high-speed girls,” Hill said.

Hill noted that she has met people from around the world as part of the West Point experience.

“At Sandhurst this past month, just in my section (consisting of about 12 people), there was a prince of the United Arab Emirates and the youngest Scottish person to climb the seven summits (the highest mountain on each continent),” she said.

Before entering West Point, Hill spent one year at Brevard College in North Carolina, where she was on the cross country team.

During the outdoor track season this year, the women’s track team at Army beat Navy for the first time in a number of years. The meet came down to the last leg of the last race, the 4 by 400-meter relay.

“For me, free time is rare since I have practice until dinner time every weekday. Distance running is year-round, from cross country, to indoor track, to outdoor track so we also compete most weekends,” Hill said.

Hill said Sunday is typically her day off, but it is usually spent doing homework for the following week.

Hill is not sure what she wants to do after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy. Cadets choose their top three branches (aviation, engineers, infantry, armor, etc.) their senior year and later in the year during Branch Night, they learn which branch they will be serving in.

After completing her officer shadowing next summer, Hill said she hopes to have a better idea of what branch she wants to serve in.

“After I commission, I will have to serve five years on active duty and three years in the reserve. Or, if I decide that I really enjoy the Army, I can stay in for longer,” she said.