Thursday, 19 August 2010
Acceptance Day, Class of 2014
On Saturday, 14 August 2010, the Class of 2014, fresh out of Beast Barracks and recently introduced to those 3,000 upper class men and women who were not on either of the two Beast details, marched for the first time as cadets, rather than new cadets, and as full-fledged, albeit novice, members of the Corps of Cadets. Upon the completion of the march back from a week of field training at Camp Buckner on Monday, Reorganization Week came as a bit of a shock. For the first time they were introduced to their regular lettered companies and their regular chain of command for the academic year. For the first time, also, they were outnumbered by upper class cadets who seemed to be everywhere as the new cadets hustled about, drawing books and computers, attending orientation briefings, and discovering how to read the schedules that would regulate their every waking hour. The King of the Beasts no longer held sway—replaced instead by Cadet Captain Marc Beaudoin ‘11, the new Cadet First Captain.
As the Class of 2014 formed up to march onto the Plain, led by a small cadre, the traditions surrounding the Acceptance Day Parade perhaps were lost on them. The fact that they formed up separate from the rest of the Corps, in lettered cadet company cohorts, in front of the viewing stands, was merely a necessary detail regarding where to be at a certain time. They marched out, waited for what seemed like hours, unmoving, sensing but not seeing the parents, relatives, and friends filling the stands to their rear. Simultaneously, the remainder of the Corps, including the Color Guard and the Brigade Staff, marched onto the Plain in regimented precision. Thousands of similarly clad and armed cadets soon were arrayed to their front, across the width of the parade field. The Cadet Chapel stood in granite splendor, backed by a nearly cloudless blue sky. More announcements were made, salutes were exchanged, the Alma Mater was sung, and the Class of 2014 officially was presented to the Corps. Then the command was given for the rear ranks of the various companies, usually first class cadets, to move back, and the formerly new cadets were given the command of “Forward, March.” In two waves, they proceeded to move to and fall in at the rear of their respective cadet companies, between the majority of the other cadets and the recently relocated rear rank.
Soon the command “Pass in Review” was given, and the various regiments, in order, shouldered their rifles and began the series of turns that would bring them onto the final line of march that passed immediately in front of the reviewing stand. There the reviewing party included four representatives of the 50-Year Affiliate Classes of 1961-64 who had participated in similar parades a half-century earlier. Amidst the constant murmur of corrections common in the ranks—dress right, cover to your front, rifle butt left or right, head and eyes up—the former new cadets may be excused for missing the historical significance of the current ceremony, but not so for the old grads in the reviewing party. In their minds’ eyes, it was not Acceptance Day but June Week, almost 50 years past, and Graduation Parade. For the Class of 1961, it meant forming up in front of their respective companies and marching onto the Plain with the entire Corps. Behind them were Plebes on the cusp of becoming Yearlings no longer required to assume the exaggerated position of attention known as “bracing.” Some Yearlings soon would become Cow Corporals, and the present members of the second class in moments would become the ranking class in the Corps. Then the graduating class was called forward, halted, saluted, and moved to the reviewing line. With command of the Corps passed to the Class of 1962, the graduating Class of 1961 watched what remained of the Corps of Cadets—all upperclassmen now—pass in review. Generally, it was the reverse of what had happened during their vaguely remembered Acceptance Day Parade so many years earlier. It is a ceremony that the Class of 2014 will experience two more times before it is their turn march to forward and take the review. By that time, they will appreciate the significance.
Now it was time to return to barracks, rack their rifles and remove their cross belts, ammunition pouches, and waist belts. Eventually, the Class of 2014 would be released to join their parents, other relatives and friends. Meanwhile, family and friends were guests at a picnic sponsored by the West Point Association of Graduates. There, courtesy of the Director of Cadet Activities, the Cadet Spirit Band, the Mule Riders, and various mascots would entertain. Various Parents Clubs and West Point Societies offered smaller scale versions of the picnic, with barbecue grills, traditional fare, and cool drinks. Many Plebes regaled their classmates, family and friends with tales of the good, the bad and the ugly of Beast Barracks. Others displayed their knowledge by giving short guided tours. All of these events would provide a few hours of relaxation before the business of shaping and educating the future leaders of our Army would begin again in earnest and continue, for them, until May of 2014.
Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire.
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