Plebe-Parent Weekend and the State of the CorpsSteven Lieberman
Each time I write about Chaney and her 47 Month experience I get nervous. First and foremost I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging about her. (Ok….truth to tell I am, and I am ok with it…I just don’t want you all thinking I am!)
That said, our daughter is going through a unique experience that you all have paid for. West Point, the oldest of the military academies is really “America’s College”. When Chaney swore in she did something that other than ROTC students at other colleges have done…she became the property of the United States Government. All of the students at West Point are by definition our students…and their growth into officers is a fascinating journey that we all can learn from.
So bear with me….it is entirely possible that I might sound like I’m boastful…but it is the entire corps of cadets that I am in awe of.
Every year a special event is held in March at the United States Military Academy called Plebe-Parent Weekend.
The winter semester at West Point can be brutal both emotionally and physically for the cadets, and the plebes in particular. This tradition of bringing the parents to West Point started many, many years ago and is designed as both a palliative measure for the cadets, as well as a separation milestone for the parents. Each class has a ball in the spring. The Yuks, Cows, and Firsties will invite dates and significant others to their balls,… the plebes… well… they are essentially ordered to invite their parents.
This is the last time the parents will be invited to participate in a formal social environment with their cadets (until the graduation and ring ceremonies)….(ring ceremonies will be discussed in a future blog, of course).
Sandy and I, of course, did our “military duty” this last weekend and traveled back to West Point to participate in the Plebe-Parent Weekend events and ball.
So a couple of takeaways:
- Chaney is doing fantastic and looked great in her formal-dress grays. She has had trials and tabulations to be sure, but she along with all of the cadets have persevered.
2) Sandy looked absolutely amazing in her ball dress, and both she and Chaney looked more like sisters than mother and daughter. (Sorry Sandy….you did, and I’m going to boast!)
3) I still looked like my bald overly-proud father self. (Oh well… some things cannot be
4) For those of you that have asked us to keep you appraised of how the Cadet is doing: Chaney has officially declared her major (as most of the plebes have now done). She is a Defense Strategic Studies major, with a special emphasis in Irregular Warfare Fighting, and she has decided to minor in Russian. She will also be going to Fort Benning, Georgia in June and getting her Airborne Wings.
(Holy crap! Does that sound cool, or what?!?! Best I could do at USF was a degree in politics and a pathetic attempt at Spanish.)
5) Finally, we were given a very very interesting speech the night of the ball by a USMA class of 1980 graduate and recently retired two-star general.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
One of the things I have always found somewhat amusing, and the General referenced it in his speech, was the “State of the Corps” becoming degraded each year.
The Firsties who are about to become “Old Grads” this May when they take their 2LT Commissions look at Chaney’s class of 2023 with apprehension for our Army.
“What has become of our Corps of Cadets?!,” they exclaim!
“This behavior and lack of aptitude would never have been tolerated when I was a plebe.”
Of course, the Old Grads from four years ago would parrot the same thing, as do the graduates from the 1990s and those from the greatest generation, who are sadly mostly gone now. Each class thinks theirs was the last of greatness… and all those who follow…well they pale in comparison.
(This is the civilian equivalent of “I walked five miles to school through the snow, both ways when I was your age!”)
Perhaps there is some truth to it…..but from what Sandy and I have seen we doubt it.
Old Grads from the 1980s, (many now in the position of senior brass), did not have computers or the internet to aid them in research or writing their papers when they were at the academy. They had to type their papers… in the snow… with bullets flying over their heads.
But these more recent cadets, while they do have the benefit of technology, must demonstrate a skill and professionalism of data management that is truly staggering. Each warrior who comes out of the academy has the physical prowess to lead a platoon across dangerous terrain, but they also have the intellectual capacity to draw upon a massive amount of data to literally “outthink” the enemy, sometimes using the diplomatic skills learned at West Point to flip the “enemy” into the “ally” column.
On a more personal note, and I beg you to forgive the pride,….Sandy also got to see Chaney’s barracks and meet her roommates. (Sandy was not able to travel to West Point in the Fall during Parent Weekend when barracks tours were available… so it was a big deal for her to see how her youngest daughter actually “lives”.)
Both of Chaney’s roommates are dedicated young soldiers themselves. Each has taken it upon herself to become a “warrior scholar” in the noble profession of arms.
Women in the Academy is a relatively new thing as the history of our nation goes. They are subjected to the same rigors as the men,… as it should be. As our society grows, and comes to realize the contributions that individuals can make, our Army must grow to capitalize on it.
General Von Stuben, the individual that was handpicked by George Washington to bring the Continental Army up to fighting standards was reportedly kicked out of the Prussian Army due to his sexual orientation. What would have happened had Washington fixated on his sexuality and eschewed Von Stuben’s contributions?
We may have lost the war.
Women were seen as a “gentler sex” that could not emotionally or physically handle the rigors of armed combat. The great female warriors that have proceeded Chaney and her roommates…those West Point grads that have sacrificed their lives, bled on the battle field, and brought hell down upon the enemy may have seriously disagreed with that assessment.
Seeing Chaney and her roommates thriving in the crucible that is the Academy tells me that we are continuing on the right track.
While many old grads might lightheartedly bemoan the state of the Corps of Cadets, they would all agree on this:
The cadets who have voluntarily agreed to support and defend the Constitution are some of the most athletically talented and academically gifted of our generation. They could have gone to any top tier undergraduate institution, but they elected instead to shoulder a burden our country has needed to survive since the ratification. They have chosen to challenge themselves, to harden themselves, and prepare themselves for the crucible of ground combat.
One of Chaney’s TAC Officers introduced himself to her company by saying that their mission was to “provide the last 300 meters of American foreign policy with violence.”
But they do not operate in a vacuum, and their job is to ultimately lead young warriors that will actually do the heavy lifting. We have a completely volunteer military. Those that have chosen to serve, in any capacity deserve our heart felt respect and gratitude….for theirs is a burden that must not be un-shouldered. The United States cannot nor will not tolerate a military that losses its’ wars. For failing to be excellent, at any level of the ranks represents an existential threat to our country.
Nor does an Army exist without a society. Not everyone puts on the uniform, but everyone should be expected to serve, even if that service is far removed from from the battlefield. The poet, the artist, the college student, the political activist, yes…even the student “finding” herself creates a tapestry of the American Experience that is fundamental to our armed forces.
Those students that do decide to go to the academies….well they are “meat-eaters” to be sure, but they are also geniuses. The intellectual gravitas displayed by these super patriots should remind us that we are protected by the strongest, most intelligent, most lethal army that has ever existed on this planet. Yet that power, that fierceness, is not to propel the ambitions of one person or to protect a singular ideology. Quite the contrary… their mission is to defend the “Grand Experiment”, a belief that all people are created equal and that rights are bestowed upon them by an almighty God, and that their ultimate purpose is to stand as the bulwark against tyranny.
These patriot children… these plebes…regardless of their academy, be it West Point, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard. They really are our nations great hope. They are the ones that stand ready to defend our country, and I cannot be more proud of all of them.