PROVO, UTAH – September 2, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – A young lady from Washington is making history by being the first female cadet to leave West Point to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Niquelle Cassador of Gig Harbor, is entering the Missionary Training Center in Provo, today, Wednesday, and will serve her mission in Cleveland, Ohio.
After her mission, she will reapply to West Point and finish up her junior and senior year. She wants to eventually graduate and commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
We talked to Cassador before she left for the MTC. “My journey so far with going to West Point has been incredible,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I have definitely had my challenges academically as well as physically, but with the help from others and the tender mercies from God I have been able to do things I never thought I could.
“I came to West Point because I wanted to challenge myself. I saw a male cadet in an airport when I was a junior in high school and I decided to look up West Point online because after asking my parents about it I was curious to see if there were female cadets as well. Sure enough there was a picture on the front page of a female cadet so I read a description of the different demands the school placed on cadets and I felt like it was the kind of challenge and structure I could use to really develop myself.
“So at that point I was sold at the idea of going to the academy, however, I still was not sure about committing myself to the military service afterwards. I barely knew anything about the Army besides what I had seen in movies. Then I had the opportunity to write an essay for my English class on a veteran from the Vietnam War. I chose to write it on another teacher I had at the time, Dr. David Morgan, who also happened to be a former assistant professor at West Point.
“When I asked him about his service he spoke of brotherhood and of an honesty and trust value system that he had not found anywhere else in the civilian world. His words truly inspired me to want to join the Army. I wanted to be some place where being a good person who always told the truth and being someone people can trust really mattered and was even expected. At that point I knew I really wanted to go to West Point but I also applied to BYU. West Point was where my heart was, but I was told if I went there I wouldn’t be able to serve a mission because of the female mission age. Then when the mission age changed [in October 2012] that was my affirmation that West Point was where I needed to be.”
She said she was ecstatic when she saw the mission age change. “That is probably the conference I will remember the most,” she said. “My journey to serving a mission isn’t any different than most people. I had a desire to serve and so I decided to go. The fact that I am the first LDS female West Point cadet is really just a matter of good timing and luck.
“I know the LDS women who went before me would have done the same if they had had the opportunity. And I know some amazing female cadets just a year behind me that plan on going on missions as well. Just like most people that go on their missions I will be making sacrifices like having to reapply to West Point with the chance I might not be reaccepted, leaving my classmates who I have survived two years with, leaving my family and friends, and also having to confine my reading to the ‘missionary library’ will be a challenge for me haha. But in the end I know it will all be worth it because I have the opportunity to forget myself and go to work (as President Hinckley would say), and I know most future missionaries about to leave probably feel that same way.”
She also talked about the main things she has learned from West Point so far. “I learned how to fail,” she said. “Over and over and over again. But I also learned that the opposite of success is not to fail but to give up. I also learned how incredible a feeling it is to have people who take their own time and energy and generously invest it in you just because they somehow believe you have what it takes. I also learned about the power of the atonement and what it feels like to have Heavenly Father meet you half way and help you accomplish things you knew you could not have done on your own.”
She said the things she wants to learn on her mission are how to learn how to listen to people and know how to love them.
She also talked about how her faith has helped her to achieve all that she has so far.
“My faith has given me the courage to jump out of airplanes at airborne school despite my fear of heights,” she said. “My faith has given me the strength and comfort I needed to pass both classes I have struggled with in school and obstacle courses that at first I couldn’t even complete. There have been many times when I have given everything I had and it just wasn’t good enough, but God reached down his hand and met me more than half way. He provided me with excellent mentors and instructors and lifted me up with amazing family members and friends. I owe everything to them.”
She said her main ambition right now is to serve well on her mission. “Brother Sherman Fleek [the West Point Command Historian and a mentor of Cassador] continues to remind me that I have ‘a year and a half to serve my mission and the rest of my life to think about it,'” she said. “I have tried to take that to heart so right now this is all I really want to focus on. After that I’m sure I will have all the help I need to pursue my other goals.”