June 28, 2016 –
“Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.”- George Whitefield
For more than two centuries now, thousands of our countries best and brightest have chosen the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York as the starting point for their journey of service to our nation.
Each year close to 1,300 future Cadets in the U.S. Army begin the process of admissions into the prestigious Academy nestled along the Hudson River valley. But before they ever begin the classroom portion of their 47-month journey with the goal of becoming 2nd Lieutenants they have to complete the Cadet Basic Training program.
Cadet Basic Training begins with R-day and for the class of 2020 R-day landed squarely on June 27.
R-day, or reception day, is the day when future Cadets report to the Academy. It is completely Cadet driven, usually by students in their third or fourth years, but entirely overseen by cadre and faculty who are there to mentor and advise, some of those with the Army Reserve.
“Working with these young Soldiers and Cadets energizes me. I love it, I love the discipline the Army provides,” said Sgt. Clifford Henry, 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry Regiment (USMA), 104th Training Division (LT).
Clifford, a 37-year Army Reserve veteran, has been working with the Academy for five years now assisting with the administrative stations for R-day and Cadet Basic Training like obtaining the height and weight and the Army Body Composition program.
“Helping out with these young people is what drives me to continue my Military service,” he said.
Cadet Ariana McConneaughey, now in her third year at West Point, was tasked with greeting future Cadets arriving to their initial reception station at Thayer Hall says her task “is to set the tone for the rest of R-day and on into Cadet Basic Training.”
“It’s our duty to ensure that they (future Cadets) are prepared for the rest of the six-week training phase, she said. “Right now they are focused on being followers. We teach them discipline; how to focus on the little things about themselves and how to do things correctly. We show them how they are supposed to look, how they are supposed to walk, and how they are supposed to talk.”
But as McConneaughey now embraces her role as a leader instead of a follower, she catches a glimpse of where her journey started at West Point as a future Cadet on R-day.
“It’s really interesting. You see these new Cadets and you have to ask yourself ‘was I that new Cadet?’ It’s so much better being on this side of the long grey line.”
But the journey at West Point doesn’t stop with new and current Cadets. For some the journey continues long after they have completed their Military careers.
“My only grandson is here for R-day today,” said retired Col. Pierce “Albert” Rushton, former Director of Admissions and West Point alum with the class of ’59.
“It’s funny because we just saw him graduate High School last week. It was a short summer vacation.”
“We had twin granddaughters just commission with the ROTC program at the University of Kansas last month,” he said. “I think my grandson chose West Point because he knows it. He immersed himself in it better than I did in my day. He grew up living only 30 miles away so he was close enough to come to events here as a little boy when I was a faculty member.”
“I look forward to coming back here for his graduation and maybe a few events along the way.”
So with some just beginning their Military careers and others much further along the way, the one factor that remains constant is the pride in their school and the love of their institution.
“I am beyond glad I came to West Point. I wouldn’t have wanted to go to any other school,” McConneaughey said.