Valedictorian graduate and the first Pusch Ridge Christian Academy student to earn a congressional nomination to a military academy, 2006 alum Zach Abrams recently returned to Oro Valley, recounting his military experiences with students, teachers and families.
First Lt. Abrams, 26, has served in the Army since graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2010. Abrams saw the military as a more feasible option after seeing his older brother, Alex Abrams, enlist into the Marines directly out of high school.
“I figured serving the military would be honorable and this (West Point) would also pay for school,” said Abrams, who wanted to pursue a degree in engineering.
West Point is a military academy that stresses excellence in academics, military discipline and physical challenges in order to mold their students into highly trained U.S. Army officers. The four-year academy was founded in 1802 and is located along the Hudson River in West Point, N.Y. Upon arriving, West Point proved to be a culture shock for Abrams who found himself immersed into a demanding, rigorous schedule among a diverse group of people.
“It was an eye opener just in terms of being around a whole bunch of different people who didn’t necessarily think the way I did. It’s the most challenging thing I had done to date,” said Abrams.
It didn’t take long for Abrams to realize his place as a freshman at the academy. Weekly duties of cleaning bathrooms, taking the trash out or delivering the newspaper showed Abrams that he was no longer the highly respected or top student of his class like he was in high school.
“I definitely learned humility. You get an inflated view of yourself in high school and then go into a new environment where you’re pretty average,” said Abrams. “When I got there I realized you’re not special or really good at anything.”
Along with humility, Abrams learned how to best manage his time and over the course of the next three years was involved in intramurals, leadership positions and Navigators – an international Christian outreach program. In 2010, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and from there was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Before receiving additional military training Abrams enjoyed 60 days of leave where he traveled to numerous places. After that he went to Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for four months. Following that he had a Permanent Change of Station to Fort Lewis, Wash. where he is currently based.
While at Fort Lewis, Abrams was deployed for a year in Afghanistan, where he held a maintenance spot for the first month until becoming a liaison officer to 3rd Brigade 10th Mountain. The position required Abrams to make sure that the route clearance engineering company and the infantry brigade were on the same page in terms of what they needed to do to complete a mission.
“It was quite a bit of a responsibility and I learned a lot,” said Abrams. “I was getting to see how we fight wars with the brigade combat team and see the strategy of all they are doing.”
Shortly after, Abrams became a platoon leader and led his second platoon, 22nd Engineer Clearance Company into combat. For the next 10 months his platoon cleared 32 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), was in five firefights and took 6 IED strikes.
Abrams returned safely to the U.S. in July 2012. He will finish his time in the military a year and a half from now and plans on finding a job in a Washington.