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New West Point Cadets Get Earful on First Day

U.S. Military Academy cadets enter Michie Stadium at West Point for their graduation ceremony, May 27, 2017. Nine hundred thirty-six cadets from the Class of 2017 received their diplomas during the ceremony. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Vito Bryant)
U.S. Military Academy cadets enter Michie Stadium at West Point for their graduation ceremony, May 27, 2017. Nine hundred thirty-six cadets from the Class of 2017 received their diplomas during the ceremony. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Vito Bryant)

WEST POINT -- For 1,249 new West Point cadets, the moment of parting came Monday morning at Eisenhower Hall, with a 60-second chance to say goodbye to mom, dad and anybody else who accompanied them.

Joshua Zock of Montgomery was one of them.

"He's wanted to go here since he was a little boy," his mom, Rachel Zock, said after Joshua marched off to catch a bus to Thayer Hall and begin the process of becoming a cadet.

Joshua Zock, a noted swimmer at Valley Central High School, hopes to be a member of the West Point swim team.

During the next four years, he'll also be pursuing studies and physical and military training. The goal: graduating with the class of 2021 and becoming a second lieutenant in the Army.

Jim Zock wasn't worried about leaving his son behind.

"He's living his dream," Jim Zock said. "The Army's going to take good care of him."

After the teary goodbyes at Eisenhower Hall, the new cadets faced a whirlwind day that included being measured for uniforms, getting their first military haircuts in the West Point barber shop, and being introduced to military discipline and the proper way to follow orders, courtesy of upper-classmen cadets who can be merciless.

"You are off to a bad start," an upperclassman told one group of new cadets that was having trouble following orders. "You are not on your time now, you are on my time."

"This is the slowest group yet," another upperclassman proclaimed of another group. Then, referring to one new cadet in the back row, he added sarcastically: "We can wait for this guy. We've got six weeks."

"Six weeks" refers to what follows Monday's Reception Day: basic training so intense it is known as Beast Barracks.

Those who don't drop out will end that training in mid-August with a triumphant 15-mile march back from Camp Buckner at the western end of West Point.

Many of those on what seemed like an endless line outside Eisenhower Hall on Monday seemed to have done their research and had some idea what to expect.

"I know it is going to be tough, but that's why we are here," said Alexis Smalls of Fullerton, Calif.

Some expressed a patriotic motive for applying to West Point.

"I love my country," said Joseph McReynolds of St. Louis, whose grandfather served in the Army, "and I thought this would probably be the best way to serve it."

This article was written by Michael Randall from The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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