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R-Day Open House 2 July 2007 First Event of 50-Year Affiliation Program (1961 – 2011)

The 2 July 2007 R-Day Open House for the Class of 2011 was the first event in our 50-Year Affiliation Program.  The Class of '61 Reception Station was ably staffed by Class Reps Carl and Ann Bacon, Tom and Judie Baird, Ed and Rina Brown, Tony Ferraiuolo, Gabe Gabriel, Marty Ganderson, John and Teri Grisoni, John Kilkenny, Brian and Joyce Schultz, and Al and Carin Vanderbush.  Click here for pictures.

Gray Matter 5 July 2007

Reception Day, or R Day, for the Class of 2011 was different from those in the recent past.  For one thing, Monday, 2 July 2007, dawned cool and breezy, with temperatures headed for comfortable highs in the mid-seventies accompanied by azure blue skies and fleecy white clouds.  Secondly, there was a large contingent (about a dozen) of representatives of the 50-Year Affiliate Class, the Class of 1961, on hand.  Thirdly, this R Day was in July; most recently have been in late June.  Ironically, the Class of 1961 reported to Beast Barracks exactly 50 years ago to the day, although 2 July 1957 was a Tuesday, not a Monday.  In that era, new cadets reported on the first Tuesday of July.  Another change was the Parents’ Lounge established in the Class of 1963 Lounge (formerly Benny’s Lounge) in Eisenhower Hall.

This year, the West Point Association of Graduates joined with the Director of Cadet Activities to sponsor this place where parents, family and friends of new cadets could stop by after having endured the announcement, “You have 90 seconds to say your goodbyes” in the main auditorium. Coffee, orange juice, donuts, advice and sympathetic ears were provided by members of the Class of 1961 and the AOG staff, along with “Proud Parent of the Class of 2011” bumper stickers, key chains and fans. Under the 50-Year Affiliation Program, cadets receive their Class flag during Yearling summer at Camp Buckner, a Class coin at the beginning of second class year, “First Brass” at Branch Night during first class year, and second lieutenants’ bars upon Graduation from representatives of the class that graduated 50 years earlier. Members of the 50-Year Class also accompany the new cadets on their march back from Camp Buckner at the end of Beast Barracks for Reorganization Week, and attend the Acceptance Day parade at the end of that week.

Some things remained the same.  Hundreds of new cadets and their respective entourages assembled by 6:00 a.m. on the steps leading to the lower levels of Ike Hall.  The Prep School candidates were first, entering at 6:00 a.m., but those scheduled for later times, by social security number, often arrived up to an hour earlier.  This year, they were entertained by a mysterious cowboy version of Uncle Sam, dressed in red, white and blue with a white cowboy hat and stilts!  All told, about 1,310 potential new cadets arrived that day, with a few last-minute replacements for those who demurred the previous day or so.  Among these were about 225 young women, the largest female contingent, at 17%, since women first were admitted (119) in 1976. After the candidates said their goodbyes, they were marched off by members of the First Beast Detail for necessary administrative processing, uniform issue and training in the fundamentals of marching in preparation for the late afternoon oath ceremony at Battle Monument.  For many, the most stressful event was the mandatory visit to the Cadet Barber Shop, there to have their hair cut to the scalp, with some leaving ten or twelve inches of locks on the shop floor. 

All this, of course, took place under the constant scrutiny of The Cadet in the Red Sash and other members of the cadre. “Step up to my line.  Not on it, over it, or behind it, but up to my line.”  Others ran afoul of reporting requirements: “Sir, New Cadet Doe reports to the first sergeant of Alpha Company for the third time, as ordered.”  For yet others, the intricacies of facing movements were their downfall.  Still others staggered under the weight of new duffel bags packed with many pounds of new cadet issue while attempting to memorize Fourth Class Knowledge.  Meanwhile, back at Ike Hall, their parents and friends were suffering another form of information overload.

As parents, grandparents, siblings and girlfriends departed the auditorium, many entered the ballroom where various Parents Clubs had set up tables, surrounded on all sides by various vendors.  The Daughters of the United States Army, known as DUSA, offered a number of West Point items but featured the remaining 79 copies of the book, Bringing Up the Brass, as told to COL (Ret.) “Red” Reeder and his sister, Nardi Reeder Campion, by the legendary “Marty” Maher.  This book was the basis for the John Ford movie of the fifties, “The Long Gray Line.’  Reprinted for the USMA Bicentennial, only these few copies were left.  Across the way, the West Point Women’s Club offered reproductions of old New York Central posters promoting the Academy as a tourist destination, BDU aprons, and a lace West Point table cloth.  They even had reproductions of a cigar box label from Adrian Cigars of Highland Falls, NY, for “West Pointer” cigars, guaranteed 30% Havana blend.  The Post Exchange offered a large Teddy bear dressed in full dress gray over white with white hat, while Academy Photos presented cadet portraits, the Hotel Thayer offered reservations for future events up to and including Graduation in 2011, and ODIA representatives sold season tickets for football. USAA meanwhile passed out hundreds of logo-emblazoned canvas totes, but the star of the hour had to be the tote bags and T-shirts offered by the gift shop of the Office of Intercollegiate Activities.  They contained all of the names of the 1,310 members of the Class of 2011 (less last-minute additions).

Then the families had to decide where to have lunch, what tours to take and what places at West Point to visit before it was time to form in the vicinity of Battle Monument for the oath ceremony, with hopes of catching one last glimpse of their son or daughter.  At the appointed hour, the new cadets, dressed uniformly in gray trousers and white, short sleeved shirts with blank shoulder boards, and white gloves marched out, led by the cadre in all whites.  Raising their right hands, the new cadets, led by the Commandant of Cadets, repeated the oath they earlier had signed during in-processing.  Officially they had been new cadets for several hours, but now they became new cadets in a public ceremony.  Then, they silently marched back to their barracks to continue the 47-month process that produces the finest second lieutenants in the world for the defense of our Nation while many parents wept.

Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire

Gray Matter 19 July 2007

As the eight companies of new cadets of the Class of 2011 marched to the mess hall from the Oath Ceremony at Battle Monument shortly after 6 p.m. on 2 July 2007, they began a 47-month odyssey that, for most, will culminate in graduation on 28 May 2011 and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  Now they are almost at the halfway point of Beast Barracks, the first leg of that journey. Required to turn in all of their modern technology on R Day, the fledgling cadets were permitted to make their first phone call home during the weekend of 7-8 July.  Outfitted in their new Army camouflaged field uniforms, they also enjoyed the traditional Independence Day USMA Band Concert (but on the 7th instead of the 4th), with the posting of the flags of each state and a fireworks display. This coming weekend, they will be permitted to make their second phone call (and enjoy an ice cream social) on Sunday afternoon.  On the weekend of 4-6 August, they will get their third phone call. During Reorganization Week, 13-19 August 2007, they will cease to be Luddites and will have their personal phones returned to them.  Upon receipt of their laptops, during that same week, they also will have access to email and the internet, but only on their cadet-issue personal computer.

In the meantime, however, they spent their first week taking physical training every morning from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m., drawing equipment, being fitted for uniforms, learning more advanced drill and ceremonies, and being tested formally, both academically and physically.  By the way, reveille formation, in PT uniform, is at 5:30 a.m., breakfast is 7:30, lunch is 1:00 p.m., dinner is 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. is Taps. During the second week, morning physical training continued, supplemented by first aid and military customs training plus a short, 3-mile, introductory road march and the Warrior Competition, a type of field day involving logs, wall obstacles, runs and similar events to determine the physically best squads in Beast Barracks.  This week, they continued physical training, including the ever-popular grass drills and rifle PT, added close quarters combatives and the bayonet assault course, took a 6-mile conditioning road march with pack and weapon, and participated in a four-mile run for Regimental Day, which marks the changing of the upper class Beast detail.  Organized athletics take place most afternoons, while 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. is reserved for evening classes and an occasional guest lecturer. Needless to say, training in the Honor Code and respect for others is ongoing.

What lies ahead (besides that Sunday ice cream social)?  Next week, the new cadets get to enjoy the gas chamber exercise: “Hold your breath, unmask, and state your full name and new cadet company.  Then you may walk, not run, out of my gas chamber!”  Introduction to land navigation and mountaineering (at the mountaineering site out past Camp Natural Bridge) come next, followed by a 10-mile road march.  Mole skin, anyone?  Week five brings basic rifle marksmanship, zeroing of weapons, familiarization firing and qualification firing; hand grenade training (including live grenades); a buddy-team live fire exercise; and the Army Physical Fitness Test for record (4-5 August).  The minimum standards are: 47 bent leg sit ups in two minutes for both men and women; 35 push ups in two minutes for men and 17 for women; and a two-mile run in 16:36 for men and 19:42 for women.  Needless to say, the minimum standards are far below the new cadet average score. Week six brings an encampment out a Camp Buckner for Operation Warrior Forge, a field training exercise based somewhat on our current operations in the Middle East and involving patrolling, checkpoints, and convoys.  Force on force patrolling exercises; advanced land navigation; and squad competition in both drill and ceremonies and on the Leaders’ Reaction Course complete the week. Then there is the final 12-mile trail march back on the morning of 13 August.  Joining them will be 150 “old grads,” including a number from the 50-Year Affiliate Class of 1961.  Although some new cadets drop out early for medical or psychological reasons, all are expected to complete the six-and-a-half week Beast Barracks experience before being given the option of resigning.  As one former new cadet from the Class of 2010 so eloquently phrased it, “I learned more about myself, the Army, and life in one summer than I had in the first 18 years of my life.” The first opportunity for new cadets to visit with parents, family and friends is after the Acceptance Day parade on 18 August.  Your West Point Association of Graduates will host a picnic for parents and friends after the parade, offering light refreshments until their sons and daughters are released from barracks on “Privileges, Walking.” By that time on the afternoon of 18 August 2007, the Class of 2011 no longer will be new cadets but full-fledged members of the United States Corps of Cadets and authorized one overnight pass per semester. 

In response to several questions from members of the Class of 1961, the following is provided: For the next 47 months, the members of the Class of 2011 will draw $864.30 per month, $141.62 of which immediately is deducted for taxes, SGLI, social security and such.  By contrast, cadet pay back in 1957 was $111.15 per month, with the bulk of it placed into a “fixed” account for uniforms, books, slide rules, and such, while the remainder was placed into a “regular” account for discretionary expenditures. Plebes were not authorized overnight passes at all—or radios or phonographs during the first semester (except during Plebe Christmas) and definitely not authorized Christmas and Spring Leave.

Just a reminder, Plebe Parent Weekend (the current equivalent of the Plebe Christmas of 50 years ago) is 11-14 October 2007.

Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire


Jon Scott's Personal Story: College Begins for Some at West Point


A sample of the new cadet companies on parade, under the leadership of older cadets (in full white uniforms.)

I won't be on-air at FOX for a few days. My wife and I need time to absorb and then recover from the trauma that's just hit us, something that's irrevocably changed our family and left most of us in tears: this morning, we delivered our oldest son, Josh, to college.

Perhaps you've been down this path before; we haven't, which is part of the reason it hit us so hard. But before you think me a melancholy sap that needs a good dose of "man-up" medicine, let me say that the institution to which we've given up our son isn't an ordinary university. And no, he's not starting out in summer school on this second day of July. Josh is one of 1,311 new cadets hoping to join the class of 2011 at West Point — the United States Military Academy.

I say "hoping" because there are no guarantees. Already these new cadets have taken on difficult challenges, beaten some long odds. Approximately 60,000 high school students "opened files" at West Point, or expressed an interest in attending. 10,800 actually applied. Of those who apply, each must also win the nomination of his or her United States senator or member of Congress. (There are a handful of nominations available through the president, the vice president, or the academy superintendant as well). Of those 10,800 who applied, 2,000 were deemed qualified and offered admission. Josh — and 1,310 others — said yes.

"R-Day" — as this is called in Army jargon for "Reception Day" — is the beginning of Cadet Basic Training, better known as "Beast Barracks." It's virtually certain that before the six weeks of Beast comes to an end, the size of this class will be winnowed down still more. Some will fail the fitness regimen, the running, the pullups, the marching with loaded packs. Some will find Army discipline not to their liking. Some will simply long for the comforts of home — cell phones, e-mail, mom's home cooking — that these new cadets will not enjoy until Labor Day at the earliest. Those who decide to pack it in will likely head for a civilian school someplace where nobody's barking orders and no one's rousing them at 4 a.m. for a 15-mile march in the rain. Those who make it through Beast will shed the "new" in their current title and become full-fledged of the United States Military Academy — albeit as "Plebes" (Freshmen), the lowest of life forms in the cadet pecking order.

No, we're not a military family, until now. My brother served in the infantry in Vietnam; by the time my 18th birthday arrived, the draft was over. The military experience is foreign to me and my wife as well. This desire for West Point is something Josh developed on his own, not because it lay deep in the family genes.

In so many ways, we're lucky. West Point lies on the banks of the Hudson just an hour north of New York City, so we're "locals." We piled Josh, his three siblings, his girlfriend and his parents into the minivan and drove to West Point's appropriately-named "Stony Lonesome" gate at 6:30 this morning. I can only imagine how much more stressful it is to make this trek from Texas or Idaho or North Carolina.

We lined up outside Eisenhower Hall with more than a thousand of America's finest young people, their parents, grandparents and siblings. No one in the crowd had much to say; a combination of tension and exhaustion kept conversations short. It must have been someone's idea of a military joke when, after we snaked through the long line outside the building, the Army finally allowed us inside by welcoming its 18-year-old future leaders through a bank of side doors marked "No Entrance."

We sat enveloped in the cool darkness of one of the largest auditoriums on the East Coast, listening to a Lt. Colonel issue a few quick instructions on the events of the day. West Point then turned over the podium over to an unlikely villainess, a friendly-faced third-year-Cadet named Riley. It was left to her to unleash a thunderbolt from the blue:

"You have 90 seconds to say goodbye."

The dam burst. Eyes ran red with tears. Josh's nine-year-old sister, who adores her biggest brother, began sobbing uncontrollably. There were six of us to hug, to hold, to say a few words, meaning we could grab him for an average 15 seconds a piece. How do you sum up 18 years in 15 seconds? How do you tell your son how much you love him, how proud you are, how excited you are for him, in those precious ticks of the clock? His life raced before my eyes — the nurse holding up a baby eighteen years ago; the shy kid joining a pre-school class; the 12-year-old, stunned by the 9/11 attacks, looking to join Junior ROTC; the football team captain, helping lead his team to a championship season.

I spoke; my words tumbled out. Too many. He seemed annoyed, or maybe he just wanted out of that emotional moment.

"Let's do this," he said, and with that he picked up his duffel and joined a single-file line that marched out of our arms and into the Army.

We won't see him at all — unless we catch a glimpse at tonight's swearing-in ceremony — and will hear from him very little over the next six weeks. Gradually those restrictions ease as he becomes a cadet and proceeds through the West Point years. Beyond that come the bigger questions: We are, after all, a nation at war. We haven't just given our son to a demanding university, we've given him to the country that he will, tonight, will swear to defend. There are some frightening possibilities awaiting at the end of this four-year tunnel.

Somehow, through the ups and downs of those 18 years, we have rasied a fine son. His future, we leave to God — and the United States Military Academy. Josh, we're bursting with pride. Go Army!

Jon Scott is anchor of "FOX News Live" weekdays at 12pm ET

This is an article from the The Journal News.

Emotional day for families as new cadets enter West Point


(Original Publication: July 3, 2007)

By the numbers

WEST POINT — John Kilkenny was ready for Reception Day, the first day for the U.S. Military Academy's latest incoming class.

The New City man, 70, is a 1961 graduate of the military academy and the father of a 1990 graduate. He came to West Point yesterday armed with advice, smiles and more than a few wisecracks.

"My wife looks at my class and says, 'I wonder how half of you got in and the other half graduated,'" Kilkenny jokingly told a Nebraska couple.

About one dozen members of the class of 1961 stationed themselves in a lounge inside the academy's Eisenhower Hall yesterday to counsel the family members of the class of 2011. As part of the West Point Association of Graduates' Fifty Year Affiliation Program, members of the class of 1961 take part in a number of key events with the incoming class, including Reception Day.

"I like to keep levity in it," Kilkenny said of his role as a counselor yesterday. "I know the emotional strain they have that day. I see it in talking to them."

For new West Point parents, there seemed to be enough emotional strain to go around. It was omnipresent early in the morning, as families who accompanied their cadets to West Point entered the auditorium in Eisenhower Hall. After a few brief remarks by West Point personnel, the families had exactly 90 seconds to say goodbye.

After hugging and kissing her son Thomas Olsen of Mount Pleasant, Elsebeth Olsen, 60, emerged from the auditorium teary-eyed.

She was proud, she said, but very sad.

"He's doing what he wants to do. That's the important thing," said Olsen's father, Henrik, 62.

Cecelia Dempsey, 46, of Rye had to weather difficult goodbyes twice in the last few days. Earlier this week, her son Ted, 18, entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. This morning, his twin brother Gregory arrived at West Point.

"I'm excited. I've waited for this day for quite a while," Gregory Dempsey said.

Cecelia Dempsey, though smiling, expressed a distinctly different sentiment.

"It's very bittersweet for me," she said. "I've been crying for three days. I think I'll cry for a week."

For the Gulino family of Nanuet, yesterday was the time to look forward to Kevin Thomas Gulino's coming four years at the academy. They weren't worried about his post-graduation future, his mother Liz Gulino, 49, said - at least, not yet.

"We're hoping things will calm down in the world, obviously, with the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said.

The academy's class of 2011 includes 20 combat veterans who have either served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both.

The class also includes the largest number of female cadets ever to enter the academy. There are 225 women who make up 17 percent of the class.

New cadet Allison Muccio, 18, said the milestone was an encouraging one.

"Hopefully we can all excel really well," said Muccio of St. Paul, Minn., "and prove ourselves even more this year."

Cadets entering the academy faced a packed schedule of paperwork, uniform fittings, close haircuts, marching lessons and, by the evening, a ceremonial oath of allegiance before their family and friends.

Throughout the day, West Point officers and older cadets - who were largely responsible for running Reception Day - weren't shy about lobbing stern reprimands at their new charges.

Even an offense as small as a smile could prompt a rebuke.

"It's not a funny day," academy spokesman Francis DeMaro Jr. said. "There's no reason to smile."

For the next six weeks, new cadets will take part in Cadet Basic Training - nicknamed "Beast Barracks" - where they will undergo physical training, take long marches and practice tactical maneuvers and rifle marksmanship before being formally accepted into the Corps of Cadets on Aug. 18.

Cadet Jason G. Crabtree of Kingston, Wash., the cadet basic training commander for the first half of Beast Barracks, said new cadets might experience two instances of "culture shock" at West Point.

The first, he said, is at the start of basic training.

"This is the first time that most of the new cadets coming in here have to respond to direct authority. They have a lot to do all the time. All of their time is budgeted for them, so I think in some ways, it's certainly the biggest culture shock," he said.

The second, he said, comes at the start of the academic year.

"Suddenly, instead of just being worried about military tasks, skills and other things that they have to take care of, they're also responsible for doing their homework."













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