Cavalier County and the communities within it are often jokingly referred to as being Nowhere, North Dakota with many of its young people eager to see the world and experience life outside of the safety of their hometowns.
By Melissa Anderson
For Briana Fisk, formerly Stremick, a 2005 graduate of Langdon Area High School, life took her to the United States Military Academy (USMA)at West Point. Now, she will once again be calling West Point home for the next three years as she instructs the cadets of the prestigious school.
“I will be stationed at West Point teaching for three years before moving on to my next assignment,” Capt. Fisk stated.
Fisk is currently a Captain in the United States Army as is her twin sister, Justine, who is working as an emergency room doctor. Fisk still has family in the area with her mother, Lisa Howatt, and step-dad Van Howatt living in Cavalier County along with her little sister, Autumn, and step-brother Nathan.
“After high school, I attended the United States Military Academy (USMA or West Point). I received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and commissioned into the Army as an Engineer Officer in 2009,” Capt. Fisk shared.
Capt. Fisk attended officer basic training before being stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 for eight months, and after completing that mission, Capt. Fisk completed the engineer captains’ careercCourse while simultaneously completing her first Master’s degree in Engineering Management from Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla, Missouri.
“I then moved to Fort Hood, Texas, where I took command of a combat engineer company,” Capt. Fisk said.
While in Texas, Capt. Fisk was accepted into the USMA teaching program, which included receiving a second Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Now I will be teaching at West Point for three years,” Capt. Fisk said.
USMA is located approximately 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River and has played a crucial role in United States history, dating from the very beginning of our nation. During the Revolutionary War, both the Patriots and British realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. The Patriots completed the structure of West Point in 1779, and it housed General George Washington’s headquarters soon after, making West Point the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.
The most important strategic position of the Revolutionary War became a school for future military leaders on March 16, 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson signed the school into existence after the urging of soldiers and legislators to eliminate America’s wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, and instead have an American institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare.
During the expansion westward, the need for engineers became apparent, and the academy made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For this reason, the first half century saw USMA graduates being largely responsible for the construction of the majority of the nation’s initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.
“The development of other technical schools in the post-Civil War period allowed West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict civil engineering focus. Following the creation of Army post-graduate command and staff schools, the Military Academy came to be viewed as the first step in a continuing Army education,” USMA West Point states on their website.
More recently, West Point’s curricular structure underwent major changes that allowed cadets to major in any one of more than a dozen fields that range from sciences to the humanities. Capt. Fisk will be teaching in the Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CME) Department at West Point.
“My first semester, I will be teaching about thermal-fluid systems which is primarily taken by students in their third year,” Capt. Fisk explained.
Like most USMA faculty, Capt. Fisk is an active duty Army officer and has a distinct advantage of being able to mentor the cadets towards their future Army careers. When Capt. Fisk was a cadet herself, she helped run study sessions for the required math and science courses and enjoyed teaching the material.
“Before graduating, I received a fellowship from the CME department offering me a teaching slot after I completed the other requirements in my Army career. I think that teaching and mentoring cadets will be a very rewarding experience,” Capt. Fisk shared.
Capt. Fisk’s time at USMA will begin this summer when she will go through a new instructor workshop to learn how the department teaches the material and get some practice teaching to other new instructors.
“After that, I will start teaching cadets in the fall,” Capt. Fisk said.
One of the largest challenges that Capt. Fisk will experience, on a personal level, will be during her first year at USMA which she will spend away from her husband, Brad Fisk, who is currently attending Florida State University in pursuit of his MBA.
“He will be moving back to New York next year,” Capt. Fisk shared.
Capt. Fisk is most looking forward to, once again, experiencing the great sense of community that West Point has to offer. Most of the instructors are former classmates of Capt. Fisk, and everyone on the campus understands the challenges of Army life.
Capt. Fisk was attracted to becoming an educator at West Point as it allows her to stay in the active duty Army while exploring if she enjoys teaching at an undergraduate level.
“It is a big honor to be chosen to teach at West Point, and I feel very fortunate that the timing and opportunity worked,” Capt. Fisk stated.