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Kingston’s West Sound Academy grad Oxford bound

Ranger School will have to wait for Jason Crabtree. For now. The 2004 graduate of West Sound Academy recently was named as a Rhodes Scholar, earning an opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University in England for two years.

Crabtree, a senior engineering major at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is one of 32 students chosen for the prestigious international program. Upon graduation from West Point this summer, Crabtree will earn a commission as a second lieutenant Army infantry officer. He will serve on active duty while studying at Oxford, and he’ll serve eight years active duty overall.

As a future infantry officer, it’s a foregone conclusion the already-airborne qualified Crabtree will attend Ranger School. He had planned to attend the grueling nine-week course either this summer or next, but the Rhodes Scholar’s plans have pushed that commitment back.

“I’m pretty honored just to enter into such an outstanding group of students. For me, it’s really about the chance to further develop the intellectual foundation that will better serve me as an officer,” Crabtree said from his family’s Kingston home during winter break last week. “It’s an opportunity to live and study in a foreign environment and better my understanding of international perceptions on American policy.”

Crabtree is no stranger to accomplishment. This year he is serving as West Point’s brigade commander — the highest leadership role a cadet can serve at the school. In his role as a student leader, he oversees training for the academy’s 4,400-member corp of cadets. Academically, he’s ranked No. 2 in his class.

At Oxford, Crabtree’s course work will be geared toward a master’s of science in engineering. His focus will be on expandable structures and their applications for space travel, like satellites that can be collapsed to fit inside launch vehicles without losing their structural integrity.

Expandable structures can be used in every day life, from foldable lawn chairs to intravenous stents, Crabtree said.

He said he’s grateful to West Point for the opportunity to study abroad and wants to use the experience as a springboard to get others in the community to consider service academies as a career path. Growing up on the West Coast, he learned little about the service academies, their academic programs or the opportunities afforded to graduates, he said.

“Hopefully, more (students) will look at the opportunity and be able to give back while they’re young,” Crabtree said.

While his academic achievements lend themselves to a more cerebral job than an infantry officer, Crabtree said infantry is exactly where he belongs.

“There’s clearly a need for people who have the ability to think strategically to serve in commanding roles,” he said. “I think it’s important that whether you’re in the infantry, an engineer or in any branch of the military, that there are critical thinkers and educated people who can provide a perspective to decision makers to have a stronger impact on what happens on the ground.”

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