Saturday, March 17, 2007

Crusty too?

Last night's function went exactly like I thought it would. Old graduates talked of how it was, younger grads talked of things new and exciting, and the Superintendent dove right into his "State of the Union - West Point Style" speech, complete with Power Point slides and pictures. Unlike my prediction of the evenings activities, I was impressed.

I quickly found myself caught up in the Supe's talk. It was very different than stuff I'd heard in the past. The Corps has changed, but I really like the way it's different than when I was there, and in the direction it's going. USMA will always be about getting a great education - and in that regard I never found my experience there lacking (if only I had taken it more seriously...). I truly felt, looking back after being in the Army for a while, that I graduated clueless as to what being a leader in the Army was to be "all about". To be fair, the nuts and bolts of leading a platoon is taught once in the Army - the transition from Academy life to the military was a hard one for me - and it probably shouldn't have been. I doubt it is anymore for Cadets graduating these days. The "M" in USMA stands for MILITARY - it seems, from the Supe's speech, that the military is more a part of the West Point experience now.

I know that's hard to believe. Sure, we did military stuff while I was there. It was just so basic. The Supe talked of advanced training at a place called Camp Buckner - it sounded realistic and awesome - something we were lacking. Our Camp Buckner was, for lack of a better word, social. We got to know each other with lots of off time and group activity that was hardly military in nature. We did do Army training - again, in my horrible memory it just seemed so insignificant. These kids, this past summer, did a non-stop, no break, like-it-was-for-real "Forward Operating Base" - and thought it was the greatest thing. What, no Camp Buckner Cotillion?

These days, Cadets can volunteer for spring break and summer training abroad with host nation armed services - the program is huge and a large percentage of Cadets take advantage of it. I have fond memories of going to San Fransisco and Hawaii for a couple of spring breaks while I was there. They've now got a Commandant's program that is more about weapons training than marching and drill and ceremony, all participated in a Cadet's spare time. Do I sound jealous? I am.

It's hard to say what my attitude would have been if this had been the way of West Point when I was there. Without hindsight, I might have resented any infringement on my personal time, however, if unexpected, the loss of social time wouldn't really matter, would it? Times are different now - well, we had the Iron Curtain and they have the War on Terrorism. Mine was a cold war, and this one now most certainly is anything but cold. These kids volunteered in the face of 9-11, knowing full well what they were getting into. I was just a stupid high school kid with very little understanding about the USSR and Communist Aggression. I really, really like and admire these young men and women!

My hat's off to the current leadership of West Point. I'm confident - albeit from an hour chat with the head honcho - that they are producing the finest Army officers that have ever been produced from the Academy - and there have been some good ones (Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton and Schwartzkoff quickly come to mind)! They've got some awesome incentive programs to keep these great folks in the ranks serving our country for years to come - incentives that I'm sure would have kept me in (guaranteed Grad School for a 3 year extension of mandatory service time - from 5 years to 8 years - an unbelievable opportunity!). They keep a conduit open with the regular Army with lessons learned in the field that are relayed in real time back to the 'Point. Awesome stuff!

And, they have a triathlon team - very cool - which was used as an example a few times in the Supe's discussion. I guess I'm hooked on these Founder's Day functions, and looking forward to hear of next years' accomplishments by my Alma Mater. Not only am I a plodder, I'm also now a crusty old grad. Good grief, what's next? Grey hair? Can I get a "take-back" on my last post?


Anonymous said...

ha ha poopie head- I KNEW you'd be glad you attended!! I am SO telling Hope on you.

Comm's said...

It is refreshing to know the seriousness of leadership training is predominate at academys. My personal opinion, for the most part at the time as an NCO was the WP'ers got too much credit for where they went to school rather for what they could translate into effective fighting units.

As a graduate of OCS I drilled into a different but more respectful rivalry. The beauty of WP is the ability to move up and have distintion. I am glad that they are again and as before teaching good men to lead good men.

V-Sticks said...

Did she just call you poopie head, how embarrassing. You may be a plodder, old and crusty, turning gray but your not a poopie head. A frog who turned into a prince is more like it.

Tri-Dummy said...

The steps that West Point is taking to develop leaders impresses me.

The initiative some of the young men and women are taking to BECOME better leaders impresses me more.