PETALING JAYA: They had to undergo a rigorous selection process that evaluated their leadership potential, physical fitness and academic achievements.
And in the end, two Malaysian cadets – Mohamed Khairel Adha Mohd Khairee and Nicholas Ong Yong Xen – were accepted to continue their studies at two prestigious US service academies and prepare to become future officers upon their return.
Chief of the Office of Defence Cooperation at the US Embassy Lt Colonel Lemar Farhad said competition this year was extremely keen, with 69 countries invited to nominate candidates.
The goal was to enrol 15 candidates in each of the United States' service academies.
“The selection process was very rigorous and competitive. Fewer than 20% of international applicants were selected," Farhad said on Wednesday (June 9) during a virtual send-off ceremony by the embassy to mark the appointments of the two cadets.
"Candidates are evaluated on their academic performance, physical aptitude, character and leadership."
The ceremony was also attended by US Ambassador Brian D. McFeeters and Malaysian Armed Forces Defence Operation and Training assistant chief of staff Lt General Datuk Hashim Aman Shah.
Khairel will attend the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he will study Aeronautical Engineering.
He hopes to become a Royal Malaysian Air Force fighter pilot upon completion of his studies.
“This is a golden opportunity for me to explore a new military academy environment. I believe this journey will teach me a lot. Even during the selection, I learned a lot,” said Khairel, who is from Taiping.
Ong has been appointed to the US Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland.
He will study cyber operations and is committed to becoming an officer in the Royal Malaysian Navy.
“It was a long process and challenging journey. However, with perseverance, hard work and commitment, I managed to do it,” said Ong, who is from Puchong.
McFeeters said Malaysians who study at the US service academies serve as "ambassadors" of sorts to the United States and make lifelong connections with US service members and citizens.
“These bonds continue to strengthen our relationship. Cadets Nicholas and Khairel are joining the ranks of these impressive Malaysians today,” he said.
To date, a total of 34 Malaysians have graduated from four US service academies since the first cadet attended the USNA Class of 1971.
Thirteen completed the programme at USNA, four at USAFA, 12 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and five at the US Coast Guard Academy.
There are five other Malaysian cadets still studying at these academies.