SHHS graduate begins new career as Army officer

Kellen Petersen graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 23.

After spending time at home on leave, he left last week for Georgia for Army Infantry Officer Basic training, which will be followed by Ranger School and probably Airborne School, he said. He will join the 10th Mountain Division, light infantry, in New York.

His brother Tory, who graduated two years ago from West Point, returned to give him his commission oath, he said. All new officers are required to take the oath.

“It was kind of special,” he said. “It was nice having my brother there to do that.”

The two attended West Point two years together, which had its ups and downs, Kellen said.

That wasn’t so great the first year, he said. As a “plebe,” students have no privileges and cannot even speak when they are outside, Petersen said. Having an older brother just drew attention to him.

Things improved as his privileges increased in his sophomore year, he said.

“It was nice to be able to interact with them (the older students and his brother) on a personal level.”

Tory Petersen was just promoted to first lieutenant, Kellen Petersen said. He is a company executive officer at Ft. Irwin, Colo., in the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. A company includes 80 to 90 soldiers, and he is essentially second-in-command of the company.

Kellen Petersen will be an infantry platoon leader, he said. That’s the “boots on the ground” type of soldier, in groups of 35 to 40. As a leader, he will oversee training and help in planning.

His job will be to make sure everything runs smoothly, keeping his platoon efficient in its tasks, he said.

Platoons usually come with a platoon sergeant, who has 15 to 20 years of Army experience, to help out a new lieutenant and show him the ropes, he said.

Petersen said he signed up for a stint that will put him through graduate school. By the time he gets through his obligations, he will put in roughly 14 years, with the option to retire after 20 years.

“It will probably be a career for me,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, it’s a great place to be. I love it. I absolutely love it.”

Serving in the Army, he works with people from many different backgrounds and has a chance to see the world, he said. It’s challenging and rewarding. No day is ever the same, and there is always something to do.

“At the end of the day, you can say you’ve done something,” he said. “There’s teamwork and bonding you don’t find anywhere else.”

Petersen credited and thanked several people for helping prepare him for succeeding at West Point.

“Looking back, there were a few people that were key in giving me lessons, who have stuck with me,” he said. Among them is high school chemistry teacher Cheryl Munts, whom he described as a tough, demanding teacher.

“It hardened me to the finer points of tough love,” he said of his experience in chemistry class, noting that the Army operates under that principle.

Munts corrects students, he said, but once the correction is made, it is not tallied up and remembered. It’s back to square one.

“You roll with the punches, get back up and go on,” he said.

Teacher Eileen McHill provided him with a lot of wisdom and taught him a lot about staying focused.

Counselor Jim Kistner has been a good friend and mentor, Petersen said. They spent many hours talking back and forth, influencing Petersen toward the mindset he would need to be successful.