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2007 March Back 3 Days of Events Draws 42  Marching Classmates from Class of '61

Forty-two member of the 50-Year Affiliation Class of 1961 joined the Class of 2011 on the 13 Aug 07 March Back that brought to a completion their Cadet Basic Training known to us as "Beast Barracks".

Most of the pictures in the slide shows below were taken by Michele or George Kopcsak.  Some others are from Dick Buckner, Dan Halpin, Terry Kirkpatrick, and Gabe.

He’s still got it! “Gabe” Gabriel proved that ’61 is, indeed, Second to None as one of over 200 graduates who accompanied the Class of 2011 on the final event of their Cadet Basic Training. West Point AOG thought it would be fun to juxtapose a photo from the 1961 Howitzer and one from this year.

Saturday First Day Event was Pasta Dinner and 70th Birthday Party for Bill Mackie

Click here for 31 pictures slide show of Pasta Dinner and Bill Mackie's 70th Birthday Party at the Thayer Hotel.

Sunday Started with Brunch at Thayer Hotel

Click here for 18 pictures slide show of Sunday Brunch at the Thayer Hotel.

Sunday Evening Started with Cadet Talent Show at Camp Buckner


Click here for 35 pictures slide show of Sunday evening Cadet Talent Show at Camp Buckner.

Sunday Night Some Bunked in Barth Hall at Camp Buckner on Bare Canvas Cots

Click here for 4 pictures slide show of Sunday night bunking at Barth Hall at Camp Buckner.

George Kopcsak reported that he had signed up to march with Bill Mackie.  He and Bill were to spend the night on cots out at Buckner.  Bill wimped out on George at the last moment and spent the night in his motel instead.  Mackie showed up at 4 the next morning, with the other "pansies" (George's words), for the March Back. There was nothing to sleep on except bare canvas cots with no blankets or pillows in Barth Hall.  George claims he about froze to death!  (Editor's note: Seems to me that this was as good or better then the bare ground we slept on during our March Back 50 years ago.)

L-R George Kopcsak, Carl Sciple relaxing on the night before the March Back

Will Conley - blowing up air mattress (really a water float) for a relaxing evening of sleep

Monday Morning March Back Begins at 0530

Click here for 13 pictures slide show of March Back start until break at Round Pond. March Back began with the first two companies setting off at 0530.The next two at 0550.  Then two at 0610 and the last two at 0630.

It started raining at about 4:15 and continued until 6.  Just enough time to get us all thoroughly soaked.  We didn’t use our issued ponchos since experience shows that one gets just as wet from sweating under the plastic.  (Picture at left is Paul Palmer getting ready to put on plastic poncho at start of march at Camp Buckner - Air Defense files needed extra protection according to Buckner.) It didn’t matter anyway since the first 5 miles was all up hill & we were all wet by then anyway.  I’m thankful that I didn’t have to carry that 40 lb rucksack that the newbies were carrying along with their M-16s.  This young female in front of me was tossing her cookies within an hour into the march.  During the next hour it was all dry heaves for her.

March Back "Water" Break at Round Pond

Click here for 52 pictures slide show of "water" break at Round Pond and then final march to ski slope.

Michele and George camped at Round Pond for the March Back.  At the time George made the reservations he had no idea that the March Back had scheduled a break at Round Pond.  Ginna Fishburne, and Al Hokin's wife Sylvia, showed up at 0700 on the morning of the March Back.  They took over the ambulance as the pictures from Round Pond show.  George reported that he had an awful time not going over to his camper for a cold beer when he got there. (Pictured to right L-R Stan Conway-Clough, Joe Fishburne, Tom Carroll, Dick Buckner (water break on march back).  For George, the hardest part of the hike was the walk down the mountain from Round Pond to the golf course.  The trip down was so steep that every joint in his body was aching by the time they reached the golf course.

50-Year Affiliation March Back for Class of 1961 & 2011 Concludes with Eventful Parade 

Click here for 48 pictures slide show of March Back Parade.

The old grads led off the parade from the ski slope to the Washington Gate entrance.  Our class followed the old grads.  We then all lined up at the gate entrance as the Supe & staff followed by the new cadets passed in review.   Then the old grads fell in behind and we brought up the rear.  Gabe marched out to the side and led us in the chants.  After we passed the reviewing stand in front of the Supe’s house we all just milled around taking pictures of different folks behind our banner.




George's wife Michele, her mother Joyce, Ginna Fishburne, and Priscilla Hardiman were standing in front of the Commandant’s house for the parade when Priscilla spotted the Com’s wife.  Apparently, they go back a ways.  At any rate the ladies get invited to the Com’s front porch for the review.  They really thought they were something!  I guess security wanted to know who the hell these people were so they asked the Commandant on the reviewing stand.  He said he didn’t have a clue.  The Com’s wife intervened before the ladies were hauled off.

After the Parade Time to Clean Up and Look Around One More Time

Click here for 10 pictures slide show of sights to see one more time until next time after cleaning up from March Back.  (Pictured above are Joe Boys and Sandy Salazar enjoying the panorama of West Point.)

After the March Back the Marching Classmates went to Arvin Gym for a shower and then proceeded to Eisenhower Hall for lunch. From there is was the trip home until the next opportunity to return to our "Highland Home on the Hudson" for the next 50-Year Affiliation Event.

Gray Matter 16 August 2007

By 0400 hours (4 a.m.) on Monday, 13 August 2007, it was raining somewhat steadily at Camp Buckner as the new cadets of the Class of 2011 woke up and geared up for the traditional road march back to West Point that marks the end of Cadet Basic Training (Beast Barracks) and the beginning of Reorganization Week.  A few years ago, the March Back began at Lake Frederick, the site of the last field training for the New Cadets.  Even earlier, the March Back was the last leg of a week of marching all morning, followed by pitching camp at various sites along the way, like Leone’s Farm (of the Mama Leone’s Restaurant family), every afternoon. Much, much earlier, the road march back also included a mounted segment but was accomplished by the Yearlings and the First Class cadre.  You may recall that the rising Second Class of that bygone era was granted about 90 days of leave between their second and third years and always met in New York City for a grand formal dinner before boarding trains for their return to West Point from “Furlough.”  The noise they made upon returning from their extended excursion into civilian territory prompted a casual remark about “the cows coming home,” and the members of the second class have been known as “Cows” ever since then.

But we digress.  It was raining at Camp Buckner, and the accompanying cold front brought a chill to the air, especially noticed by the members of the 50-Year Affiliate Class, the Class of 1961, as they rose from cots provided for those who chose to spend the night at Camp Buckner to participate in the March Back.  The rain was equally noted by the members of the class who opted to bus into Camp Buckner at oh-dark-thirty in the morning for the March Back. By 0530 hours (5:30 a.m.) however, light was beginning to appear through the rain clouds as New Cadet Companies G and H, plus a contingent of about 40 Old Grads from 1961 and about 120 from other classes, stepped off for the 10-mile march.  Twenty minutes later, E and F Companies joined them, followed, in turn, by the remaining companies.  It was still raining, but soon the sun came out to stay. Graduates in special March Back polo shirts and caps were spread throughout the marching columns, conversing freely with the cadre and new cadets, except on the long, uphill stretches. By 1100 hours, Companies A and B, last in the order of march, closed on the Victor Constant Ski Slope next to the West Point Mint, where G and H Companies had closed about 85 minutes earlier.

Members of the Class of 1961 arriving there were joined by additional classmates not fortunate enough to receive one of the limited slots for the full 10-mile march.  These late additions would be limited to participating in the march through Washington Gate, down Washington Road, to Quarters 100, where the Superintendent, Commandant and Dean, along with hundreds of family members and other well wishers awaited their arrival.  After posing for a group photo, the reinforced 50-Year Affiliate Class formed behind a banner displaying their class motto, “Second to None,” and waited for the final leg of the march to begin.  Old graduates from other classes also formed, including members from the Class of 1945 to the Class of 2007, and then began the short march to Washington Gate, cheered on by West Point songs from the Cadet Rally Band.  Once inside the gate, the grads formed by the side of the road. From there, they watched the eight new cadet companies as they passed, carrying a banner with their motto, “For Freedom We Fight.” 

Then the grads fell in behind the last company for the march to the cadet area, passing family members and friends displaying various hand-lettered signs congratulating the new class. Among the graduates were LTG (Ret.) Dick Graves ’58, his son Tom ’86, and his grandson Colin ’11.  Nancy and Dick Stevens, both ’81, marched with their daughters, Erin ’07 and Katelyn ’11.  But the top grad had to be COL (Ret.) Dick Williams ‘45, a veteran of many March Backs, at the age of 84. Even the Army mules came out to march the last two miles.  The reception the new cadets received on the concrete apron in front of Washington Hall and Eisenhower and MacArthur barracks was a bit different.  Pushups for minor transgressions, massed cheers, rifle cleaning and last-minute studying of Fourth Class Knowledge were the order of the day as the new cadets prepared to face the entire 3,000 members of the upper classes.  Reorganization Week would pass in a blur of room assignments, class assignments and drawing of laptop computers and textbooks, culminating in the parade in which the Class of 2011 forms up on the reviewing line, facing the Corps of Cadets, is accepted into the Corps, and then is marched to join the Corps for their first “Pass in Review” as Cadets rather than New Cadets.

In four years, the process will be reversed, with the members of the Class of 2011 marching out in the front ranks of their respective companies, then marching forward to the reviewing line to watch the three remaining classes pass in review.  During all this time, the links to their 50-Year Affiliate Class will grow.  At Camp Buckner during their Yearling year, they will receive their class flag from the Class of 1961.  At the beginning of their Cow year, they will receive a Class coin from them; early in First Class Year, they will receive their branch brass; and at Graduation they receive a set of second lieutenant’s bars from the Class of 1961, as the Long Gray Line stiffens and strengthens in service to our nation.

Many thanks to Vince McDermott ’85 for the genealogical details of this March Back.  There will be no Gray Matter published on 23 August 2007 due to travel requirements.

Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire

Grad March Back 2007 Summary

Total Number of Graduates Participating - 203
USMA Classes Represented - 39
Senior Grad - COL(R) Dick Williams, Class of 1945 (84 yrs old)
Youngest Grad - 2LT Erin Stevens, Class of 2007
12-Mile Marchers - 170
2-Mile Marchers - 28
Parents/Relatives of New Cadets - 61
50-Year Affiliation Class, Class of 1961 - 42
Cadre Briefing at Camp Buckner & New Cadet Talent Show - 185 (Includes Guests)
Post-March Lunch, Eisenhower Hall - 273 (Includes Guests)

Click here for article BACK FROM BASIC TRAINING from Times Herald-Record













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