Has it really been seven weeks?
Back on the , we
dropped off our oldest son at
Yet, that day is more than seven weeks behind us now; Josh and most of the other cadet candidates survived their basic training — better known as “Beast Barracks” — and, this past weekend, the Class of 2011 was accepted into the Corps of Cadets.
numbered 1,305 back on July 2 — and, it's my understanding that about 30
dropped out during Beast. To hear their stories, it's easy to understand why.
Most were 18-year-olds when they arrived at
I think of
what this class has already accomplished and I am in awe. While their high
school classmates enjoyed the languid days of summer, these youngsters were
learning the business of defending
Day, (A-Day) marks the end of Beast Barracks and — something some cadets said
was even tougher — “Reorgy Week” ("Reorgy" with a hard-G sound). Reorganization Week
commences as Beast Barracks ends, when the
During Beast, the new cadets outnumber their senior (upperclass) officers three or four-to-one. Once Reorgy Week arrives, that number is reversed — upperclass numbers swell until they outnumber the lowly wannabe Plebes about three to one. It's not just their numbers that brings dread to the hearts of the incoming class — it's their mission: to test the hardiness, the knowledge, the mettle of every single one of these new cadets. Some in the civilian world might call it harassment. It isn't, if I may dare to offer an opinion on something I've never experienced. It is the means these senior officers use to ascertain that those coming up behind them are prepared for the awesome responsibilities of leadership in the most powerful military force the world has ever seen. They experienced it; they learned; and now they want to impart their knowledge, their discipline, to the incoming class. It's what has kept the Long Gray Line just that; an unbroken chain that stretches back to the first cadets at an institution envisioned and then ordered into existence by General-turned-President George Washington.
An example of the tribulations of Reorgy Week: We heard of one unfortunate new cadet who left the relative safety of his barracks room and entered a hallway with his shirt tail untucked. Instantly, he was set upon by a phalanx of upperclassmen determined to correct this egregious breach of Army discipline. Officers must always present themselves in the most favorable light possible; details are important. An officer whose shirt tail escapes his notice might also lose track of the myriad other details required of a leader on the battlefield and, ultimately, that can cost lives. It's the old proverb, "The war was lost for want of a nail." This new cadet was reminded at great length and very loud volume that he will represent West Point and the Army and he will do it to the best of his ability — and he will NOT do it with his shirt tail flapping behind him. Such helpful hounding went on every minute of every day for every new cadet.
Six weeks of
Beast and the torment of Reorgy week ended on a
glorious A-Day morning. Under the gaze of the statues of Generals Washington
and MacArthur and to the beat of the West Point Army
Band, the new cadet class emerged from their barracks. Thousands of us watching
from the bleachers fell to an awed silence; what had
The upper classes also marched in formation to their appointed spots on The Plain to face the new cadets and the spectators behind them. The Acceptance Day ceremony began, filled with symbolism and dripping with history. Orders shouted and answered; long, powerful commands echoing across the historic field where new cadets have long responded to the call. As a parent, the feelings were overwhelming — knowing that great American leaders with names like Grant, Patton, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Schwarzkopf once stood where our son and his 1,300 classmates were standing this day. Were they also as nervous, as exhausted, as wondering, when they marched on A-Day?
struck up the song, "The Rookies." More reverberating
commands. Movement from the new cadets. Rifles
hoisted high, bayonets gleaming, they strode
confidently across The Plain. Forward they marched, two groups melding into
one, our "Plebes" taking up positions in the rear of the cadet
companies already assembled in front of them — marching to join the men and
women who will be their families for the next four years at
A-Day ceremonies are open to the public, and if you get the chance, plan to attend in some future year. Nowhere is the pride and tradition of this great nation on more magnificent display.
After passing for the superintendent’s review, all 4,000 cadets continued their magnificent march across The Plain until they disappeared into the sally ports cut through the gray stone of Eisenhower Hall. The Class of 2011 — class motto, "For Freedom We Fight" — is officially part of the Corps of Cadets. The Long Gray Line is longer still — and stronger than ever.