PHOTO CAPTION: The Efaw sisters comprise a rare triumvirate in the Corps of Cadets today as, from left, Alexandra (Class of 2014), Arianna (Class of 2017) and Anastasia (Class of 2016) continue a family tradition at the U.S. Military Academy started by their parents who graduated in the Class of 1989.
October 28, 2013
By Cadet Alexandra Efaw
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2013) -- They used to borrow each other's skinny jeans and dresses. Now they borrow ACU nametapes, black shoe polish and M16 cleaning kits. They are sisters, biologically and in arms, and they are all cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Three siblings at West Point at the same time is unusual. Three sisters at West Point at the same time with USMA graduates for parents--well, there's a first time for everything.
The Efaw sisters--Alexandra (Class of 2014), Anastasia (Class of 2016) and Arianna (Class of 2017) were bred to go to West Point.
"Yeah we're pure-bloods," Anastasia jokes. "West Point is in our DNA."
It all began when Amy Blanchard and Andy Efaw graduated from West Point with the Class of 1989 and were married six months later. Not long after came Alexandra, and then over the next 10 years arrived Anastasia, Arianna, Andrew Jr., and Aimee Katerina at an average of two-year intervals (though their mom denies any truth to the rumor that the Army inspired all the "A" names).
With so much West Point in their blood, the Efaw household was managed with what some might describe as martial law.
"Think of the Von Trapp family minus the "sound of music," and that was pretty much us," Arianna said.
"Yeah, West Point feels just like home," Alexandra added.
For one thing, the discipline at West Point wasn't much of an adjustment.
"We weren't usually grounded," Anastasia, the yearling of the group, said. "We were dropped for pushups. I think 170 is the most I was ever dropped for in one day."
It didn't matter whether they were in public or not, "drop and give me 20" was a common occurrence.
"We had to count our iterations out loud, and they only counted if they were perfect form," Arianna said. "Bad pushups had to be done over."
"And then we had to ask 'permission to recover," Alexandra added. "Usually 'recovering' was accompanied by 'popping off' with a 'loud and thunderous,' 'I will not hit my sister!' or whatever the 'infraction' had been. And if we weren't loud enough, we had to get back down and redo it, louder and more thunderously."
"So embarrassing," Anastasia said.
Pushups were not all Amy and Andy borrowed from West Point; they adopted what they call "the clipboard." When Andy and Amy were cadets in the late 80s, clipboards were used for room inspections.
"When you walked into a room, you (or the chain of command) could tell at a glance whether the mission essential tasks in that room had been done or blown off," Andy Efaw said.
The Efaws adapted the clipboard idea with their own kids.
"Each of them was "issued" a brown clipboard, just like the ones Amy and Andy were issued as cadets, and created a checklist of what they considered the mission essential tasks for their kids.
"It's not really the clipboards that mattered," Andy said. "It was the checklists that were on it. The checklists erased any question of what was expected daily of each kid. It eliminated the 'I forgot' excuse and ensured everything that needed to get done was done."
Even if the clipboards were not always enforced, the expectation was still there. The girls knew where the bar was. And in a household of seven people, it brought a little order to the chaos.
The Efaw sisters comprise a rare triumvirate in the Corps of Cadets today as, from left, Alexandra (Class of 2014), Arianna (Class of 2017) and Anastasia (Class of 2016) continue a family tradition at the U.S. Military Academy started by their parents who graduated in the Class of 1989.
The checklists on the clipboards had the girls' chores listed on them, like "feed dog" and "make bed," but it also included more mundane tasks like "brush teeth" and "take bath" because sometimes the Efaw kids neglected those basic elements of daily hygiene.
"Every day we had to write the time down that each chore was completed," Anastasia says, "and at around 2100 (or 9 p.m.), we would go to our dad, and he would inspect it, and then sign off for that day. If our chores were not done to standard, they had to be redone and then re-inspected before we could go to bed or start homework or whatever."
Although today's West Point cadets don't use the clipboard, the sisters still feel they were very prepared to come to West Point. They were taught discipline, how to attain and set standards and then maintain them, how to manage their time, and to appreciate the importance of physical fitness.
The girls were required to play a sport (they all chose soccer) and do two minutes of pushups and two minutes of situps every day. Arianna laughs as she recalls her dad taking her and her sisters on runs.
"He would often call cadences," she said, "and we would echo them back. I guess it was kind of strange, but we didn't know any different. It helped when we got here; we already knew most of the cadences."
All three sisters agree that they felt no pressure from their parents towards attending West Point. They each just knew from early on that West Point was where they wanted to go to college.
"Honestly, I thought everyone went to West Point," Alexandra said. "I had two uncles and an aunt who also graduated from West Point. But even when I eventually found out other colleges existed I still wanted to come here."
All three sisters have a great appreciation for the military and what it means to be a service member. They lived through their dad deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan and grew up around military installations and Soldiers. They have a genuine desire to serve their country and continue the work of all the American Soldiers who have served and/or died defending this great nation, including some of their parents' classmates. The tenants of "Duty, Honor, Country" truly run through their veins.
The Efaw three may give way to all five attending before the saga is complete. The two youngest Efaws, Andrew (a high school freshman) and Aimee "Kat" (a 7th grader) both claim they, too, want to attend West Point.
Anastasia puts it best when she says, "We aren't brainwashed, we promise. We're just a Band of Sisters!"