Each year, U.S. Congressmen have the ability to nominate high school seniors to four of the country’s five U.S. service academies: the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
In the 25th Congressional District, which serves the Santa Clarita Valley, Congressman Steve Knight has the ability to nominate up to 10 individuals from his district for each vacant academy slot.
During the past four years, three of these appointees were graduates of Trinity Classical Academy. Under former Congressman Buck McKeon and Congressman Knight, Trinity grads Spencer Klehn, Ian Caddow and Caden Kulp were each appointed to the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy, respectively.
“I will always remember when I stepped out of history class to get a call from Congressman McKeon’s office,” said Klehn, who is currently in his final year at West Point. “They told me that I had received the No. 1 nomination slot from the Academy and I was overjoyed.”
The same was true for Kulp, who said the call solidified his call to service, and for Caddow, who was the No. 1 appointee from the district in 2016.
“I felt incredible to be nominated. It was nerve-racking, but relieving,” said Caddow, who is in his second year at the USNA in Annapolis, Md. “I felt very humbled, as well, by it all, considering how prominent of a figure Steve Knight is, how good of a man he is known as being and for how respected he is.”
All three academy appointees knew they wanted to serve in the military during their high school career. Klehn was inspired to join the army after having several conversations with his father and Caddow knew he wanted to serve in the beginning of his sophomore year, but became interested in attending one of the military academies after speaking to Khlehn about West Point.
Kulp was inspired to attend an academy after he attended the Air Force Academy Summer Seminar before his senior year of high school.
“I began to look at the Academy as I place that fit me,” said Kulp, who is in his first year at the USAFA in Colorado Springs Colo. “As I went through my senior year, it became clear that I wanted to serve in the US Air Force and attend the Academy. I knew it was not going to be easy, but was excited for my decision as I felt called to serve my country.”
All three military academy attendees were standouts at Trinity in both football and basketball and played key roles in the 2013 CIF SS 8-man Championship Football Team and the 2014 CIF SS Div. 6 Basketball Championship Basketball team.
“I was there the first year with 28 students and watched the school move from campus to campus and grow every year. Sports was a big part of my life growing up and I wanted to play in high school at a competitive level,” Klehn said. “I feared I would not be able to do that at Trinity because of the small school and young teams, but over my four years, we won a CIF Championship in football and made it to two CIF Championships in basketball, winning in our second championship game.”
Each Trinity graduate was also named Trinity Male Athlete of the Year during their tenure at the classical Christian school campus.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to play as many sports as possible and really immerse myself in the athletic program there,” Kulp said.
All three students said the school’s culture, academics and spiritual guidance prepared them for their futures and careers in their respective military academies.
“The amount of incredible life lessons I learned and the knowledge I was allowed to gain was a blessing. The spiritual atmosphere meant the world to me as well,” Caddow said. “TCA prepared me well spiritually for the Academy. Coming from a deeply spiritual school to a largely secular school, I felt confident and prepared in my faith to be able to talk about it, defend it, and spread it when need be.”
For Klehn, the challenge of Trinity from an academic and moral standpoint also prepared him for his life at West Point and his career in the Army.
“Trinity prepared me in every way. The heavy academic load at Trinity made the transition to the Academy seamless. The leadership I learned on the field gave me a strong foundation when I entered the Academy to learn to follow before I could lead others,” he said. “The Christian teaching of Trinity and the support from the Christian community at school strengthened my moral foundation and helped me internalize the values of the Army and the Honor Code.”
Although the experience has been challenging at times, Klehn, Caddow and Kulp have enjoyed their experiences at the military academies and have found the experience to rewarding and fulfilling.
“In only a couple months of being here, I have learned countless lessons about myself and how to lead others,” Kulp said. “I have made great friends that I will cherish forever. Every day presents a new challenge, but that provides the way for great opportunity.”
Caddow said his experience at the USMA has been “inspirational, positive and eye-opening,” and Klehn said the lessons and training exercises of the USNA have helped him grow as a leader feel prepared for “whatever God has in store.”
“I’ve had opportunities I never thought possible, met amazing well-rounded people, gotten to do some really cool things, been challenged extensively, pushed in different ways,” Caddow said.
Upon their graduations in 2018, 2020 and 2021, Klehn plans to move to Fort Rucker, Ala. for 19 months of flight school, Caddow plans to work as a Marine Corps officer and then get into law enforcement or politics, and Kulp plans to become a Cyber Officer or a pilot in the Air Force.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_