BEDFORD — Though he was only in sixth grade when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 happened, Adam Fulling knew then that his destiny was to join the military.
Fast forward to his senior year at Manchester West High School, Fulling received his acceptance letter from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
“It was a shock for my parents,” said Fulling, 22, who graduated from West Point this year. “Just out of the blue, I wanted to join the military.”
“I remember going to get the mail and getting the letter from (the academy). I was home alone at the time and I pretty much shouted with excitement.”
Currently a student at the flight school at Fort Rucker in Ala., 2nd Lt. Adam Fulling said the first seven weeks consisted of a basic training period.
“After those seven weeks, you start freshman year, and basically you are outranked by everyone else at the academy, and you have a bunch of duties to do like taking out trash, cleaning the hallways,” he said. “You have to know knowledge and the upper class will quiz you at different times.”
He studied mechanical engineering with a sub-degree in aerospace engineering.
In the beginning, he was having serious doubts — he even considered dropping out.
“At West Point you can go through your first two years and leave, no harm done,” he said. “But at the first day of your junior year you sign a contract that you owe the Army eight years of service.”
He asked himself whether he really wanted to give the next ten years of his life to the military. He brought his concerns to an instructor who proved instrumental.
“(We) worked it out that the doubts weren't really founded on anything severe enough for me to actually leave,” he said. “This is what I wanted to do so I'm sticking with it.”
Life wasn't easy at West Point, where cadets are assessed not only on academic achievements, but physical and military as well.
“It's very strict,” Fulling said. “They tell you what to wear, what time you're getting up. Basically your entire day is planned from six in the morning to five at night.”
Then there's the eight hours of homework students are expected to complete in four hours. Time management, Fulling said, is the key.
With over 80 percent of the student body at the academy being male, Fulling hasn't had a girlfriend since high school.
“I enjoyed my time there,” he said. “I made a lot of lifelong friends. Academics was very time-consuming, but we got through it together.”
“A lot of people say it's not a lot of fun, but I think that's why I made so many good friends there.”
Fulling spent the spring semester of his junior year as a student at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., receiving his glider pilot wings there.
Last summer he had a three-week internship with the United Kingdom's Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron at Boscombe Down, England. He also interned at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, shadowing a helicopter pilot while serving as platoon leader.
Fulling graduated this year from West Point with honors, 44th in a class of 975 students, before setting off for flight school.
At flight school, Fulling is studying four of the standard helicopters deployed by the military — the Black Hawk, Apache, Chinook and the Kiowa.
He likes the Black Hawk best, and if he graduates at the top of the class, he'll be able to choose to work with the chopper of his choice.
He would also be able to choose where he gets stationed. His top choice is Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga. His second choices are in Colorado and Hawaii.
After graduating from flight school, he will be a platoon leader with 25 to 30 soldiers under his command. Asked about his future, Fulling said it's still unclear.
“As it stands, I owe eight years in the Army, and I could get out after those eight years, or if I decide I love what I'm doing and I'm doing well, then I'll stay in and we'll see how it goes from there,” he said.