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United States Military Academy Cadet Steve Swan operates a PLGR global positioning system at Camp Stanley Friday. Swan is one of about 50 cadets assigned to units in South Korea this month.

United States Military Academy Cadet Steve Swan operates a PLGR global positioning system at Camp Stanley Friday. Swan is one of about 50 cadets assigned to units in South Korea this month. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — Far from the classrooms and war monuments of West Point, 1st Class Cadet Andrew Komm gave a briefing in a dark room inside a mock training city.

The plywood walls don’t quite match the polish of the United States Military Academy but Komm says he’s enjoying his glimpse of the “real Army.”

Komm, assigned to Camp Casey’s 55th Military Police Company, is one of almost 50 West Point cadets who arrived recently in South Korea to spend a month with various units.

Komm’s cadet status allows him to wander between the enlisted and officer worlds more freely than most. It’s a rare opportunity for a soldier-in-the-making who more often sees field-grade officers back at college.

“Officially it’s … ‘sir and salute’ but you’re still a cadet,” Komm said.

Cadets in South Korea work beside lieutenants, giving them a feel for what their first job may be like.

Although some aren’t assigned to the specialty they prefer for their own futures, the day-to-day functions still are eye-opening, they say.

“When people leave West Point, you don’t hear from them until they’re senior or at least a captain, so you don’t hear a lot about what lieutenants do,” said 1st Class Cadet Steve Swan.

The time spent in the regular Army also is a welcome respite for some cadets used to West Point’s pressure-packed academics.

“It’s what you think it is,” Komm said. “Class rank determines your future so it’s very, very competitive. Here, it’s much more down to earth.”

Each cadet in West Point’s class of 2007 joined the academy after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, so they have no illusions about cushy postings, the cadets in South Korea indicated; they expect to be deployed in combat zones eventually. Some merely say it’s what they’re trained to do; others will seek specialties that will put them in combat as soon as possible during their careers.

After four years of learning, Komm said, he will be ready to test his skills.

Being in the academy, he said, “is like being on a soccer team and practicing all week but you don’t get to play.”

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