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Steilacoom High grad joins family business

Rachel Forbes heads to West Point

Forbes family photo the night before graduation, May 25, in front of Eisenhower Hall at the United States Military Academy prior to the graduation banquet in the Cadet Mess Hall. Photo courtesy the Forbes family

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New United States Military Academy (USMA), Cadet Candidate Rachel Forbes, began her Plebe summer, July 2, after graduating from Steilacoom High School. She is the fifth member of her immediate family to consider the Army as a career and will be the fourth to attend the academy. Her father, Col.(R) Robert S. Forbes, was a 1981 graduate of West Point and her mother, Col.(R) Mary J. (Costello) Forbes, graduated Class of 1983. Her sister, 2nd Lt. Johanna Forbes, was just commissioned from the Class of 2018, and her other sister, Cadet Mary Elizabeth Forbes, attends Seattle University and participates in the Army ROTC program.

 "The Army is a family business," said Col.(R) Mary J. (Costello) Forbes. "My husband and I were career Army and Army National Guard. We instilled in our children the idea of selfless service; however, we never pushed them into going to USMA or into the military because we felt that they needed to make that decision for themselves. We are proud they selected the path of the Army, the same as us."

For Cadet Rachel Forbes, it was more than just selecting a college to attend. "I was 12 the first time I visited West Point, and I got the feeling that I wanted to go there," she said. "As I have grown up, I have learned what it means to attend and what it means to serve in the Army." That feeling became her calling. "West Point gives me the ability to (learn) while developing me further as a leader of character."

There have been positive changes over the years in regards to hazing at the academy. Col.(R) Robert S. Forbes noted the changes between his and his daughter Johanna's experiences. "When I was a cadet at West Point, you could never do anything right, and the upper classmen were always out to haze you.  Plebes avoided going outside their rooms to the bathroom because the hazing was so merciless. What I see now is a much more positive environment where cadets are encouraged to learn and do the right thing.  Hazing is now prohibited and is just not tolerated."

Rachel enters West Point at a time of unlimited opportunities for women in the Army. Ranger School and the combat arms are now open to women. Her sister, Johanna, graduated fourth in her class out of nearly 1,000 cadets, and the Class of 2018 top six graduates are women. Johanna's classmate, 2nd Lt. Simone Askew, served as the "First Captain" at USMA, the highest ranked cadet. She is the fifth female, and first African-American female, to hold the rank. The two siblings can look to their mother who graduated in 1983, and was in the fourth class of women to graduate from the academy. These women helped pave the way for those that followed. 

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