Scott Amos Collins, 22, a Liberian Officer Cadet who won the prestigious West Point Military Academy Award in the United States of America, was inducted into military service over the weekend in Monrovia.
Collins’ journey to the West Point Military Academy, according to Ministry of National Defense (MoD) authorities in Monrovia, brings to mind the story dating back to 1988 of Madison Tokpa and Fombah Sirleaf, the only two Liberians to have attended the celebrated West Point Military Academy.
Mr. Collins becomes the first Liberian in 29 years and one of 13 international nominees from 161 countries around the world to gain admission into the United States Military Class of 2021, which starts on July 2017.
Accordingly, Collins was inducted into the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as an officer cadet on April 27 at the MoD Barclay Training Center (BTC) on UN Drive in Monrovia. His admission qualifies him for a four-year degree in addition to military regimentation (orientation) and will subsequently be commissioned as a junior officer in the AFL when he returns to Liberia upon the completion of his studies.
Mr. Collins is a graduate of the St. Martin’s Catholic School in Gbarnga, Bong County, and a first year student at the University of Liberia majoring in Engineering.
The process that selected Collins, according to Acting Minister of Defense Joseph F. Johnson, began over a year ago when the ministry received an invitation from the United States Government’s Departments of Defense and State to nominate up to six Liberian candidates to compete for admission to the United States Military Class of 2021.
“The ministry without delay looked within the AFL with the intent of selecting suitable candidates who would compete against other domestic and international candidates,” Mr. Johnson said. He said the process was advertised in the media.
He said through the use of print and electronic media, the ministry invited deserving young Liberians who met the criteria for the exercise.
As a result, a total of 152 candidates sat the standardized English and Mathematics test administered by the Monrovia office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC). The results of the test were submitted to Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai with the candidates being ranked from highest to lowest. Based on their order of merit and a process void of influence, the top 16 candidates were selected for interview and preliminarily admitted into the process. Defense authorities selected the top 16 applicants and subsequently exposed them to military regimentation, thoroughly vetted them, and further requested them to submit their police clearances to ascertain if they had any prior criminal record.
Additionally, for eight months, the candidates underwent English and Mathematics tutorials in preparation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which was administered in Monrovia in October 2016.
During the preliminary selection process, the ministry said the physical conditions and stamina of the candidates were tested and tried as the candidates underwent two different physical fitness (PT) tests within the span of two months. “Medical examinations were also administered for the candidates,” the ministry said.
During the process, the names of some of the applicants were removed from the list, further reducing the listing of candidates to 14. “Again, a five-member interview panel was set up and the 14 candidates were further interviewed on record,” the ministry said.
Based on the combination of multiple factors including personal assessment of the candidates, the PT and SAT scores, and the candidates’ ability to adapt to military regimentation, the interviews concluded. The authorities at the ministry submitted to its partner, the United States Government, six (6) candidates who they felt would better represent Liberia and at the same time adequately compete with other candidates around the world for admission into the prestigious West Point Military Academy.
“Following final screening by our US partners, the ministry was notified that only one candidate, Scott Amos Collins, confirmed to the final selection standard for admission into the US Military Class 2021, which enters on July 2017,” Acting Ministry Johnson told reporters recently.
Upon successful completion of his studies, Mr. Collins becomes the third Liberian to join the ranks of Madison Tokpa, an AFL personnel, and Fombah Sirleaf, now the director of National Security Agency, to be trained at the West Point Military Academy. The academy teaches graduates to become leaders.
Probably the most well-known of all commissioning programs (but the hardest to qualify for) is the West Point Academy. But the admission is open to civilians and to current (enlisted) members of the military. Each year the academy admits 1,150 to 1,200 young men and women. A West Point cadetship includes a fully funded four-year college education.
Tuition, room, board, medical, and dental care are provided by the U.S. Army where a cadet earns about US$600 a month or nearly US$7,200 a year. A portion of that cadet pay is deposited into a personal checking account. Another portion of cadet pay is deposited into a “Cadet Account” that is used to help a cadet pay for expenses such as uniforms, books, a computer, and activity fees.
By law, graduates of West Point are appointed on active duty as commissioned officers and serve in the U.S. Army for a minimum of five years, but in the case of Collins, he will return to Liberia and take a commission into the AFL as 2nd Lieutenant.
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hilary Collins, joined the US Military delegation headed by Col. Dupont and their Liberian counterparts, with the presence of the Chief of Staff, Daniel Ziahnkahn, and his deputy Prince C. Johnson to grace the induction ceremony at the ministry’s UN Drive office in Monrovia.