Reception Day for New Crop of Cadets at West Point

WEST POINT -- Koby Antwi of Boston was looking forward to his first day at West Point on Monday.

He attended the West Point Prep School last year, so he figured he was better prepared than most for the stressful day that was about to begin.

Antwi had a special reason for choosing West Point and an Army career.

"I'm first-generation (American)," said Antwi, whose family roots are in the African nation of Ghana. "I wanted to find a way to give back to this country."

Antwi was among 1,308 new cadets who showed up Monday for Reception Day, or R-Day as it's known on-post.

They got their introduction to military drilling and discipline, and will now undergo six weeks of basic training so intense it's known as Beast Barracks.

A few probably will decide to leave, that the Army is not for them, but those who stick with it will become members of the West Point class of 2020.

Some waiting with their parents and other family members in the long line outside Eisenhower Hall, where their indoctrination to West Point began, seemed to have at least a vague idea of the rough time they were in for.

Taylor Reim of Fayetteville, N.C., called it "an assembly line, and yelling."

The part of the day spent at Thayer Hall is much like an assembly line. There, cadets are measured for uniforms. They pick up their duffel bags, underwear, socks, shower shoes and other clothing basics. And they find out which of eight companies they'll join for Beast Barracks.

The yelling starts after the new cadets say goodbye to their families at Eisenhower Hall. (They get 60 seconds for that.) As they prepared to board buses to Thayer Hall, they heard instructions like these from the upperclass cadets who conduct R-Day:

"Do not run up the stairs. You will move at a brisk pace -- 120 paces per minute, is that clear?"

"Yes, sergeant!" they answered.

They also learn when not to move.

"If you can't stand still for 30 seconds, it's going to be a long four years," an upperclassman bellowed at one group.

Cadet Adam Kratch of Long Valley, N.J., the basic-training commander, said he had fond memories of his own R-Day, even though he had a difficult first meeting with the dreaded "cadet with the red sash."

That's the cadet who introduces new arrivals to the importance of following orders: "Step up to my line, not on my line, not over my line."

"It took me nine tries to get it right," Kratch recalled.

Kimi Walker of San Diego was among the new cadets continuing a family military tradition. Her father and grandfather both served in the military.

Her father, Bobby Walker, was a Navy man. How will he handle the Army-Navy football game the next four years?

"I'll cheer for both," he said.

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