Exchange program brings Australian cadets to West Point
October 6, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 6, 2011) -- Four cadets from the Australian Defence Force Academy concluded a 10-day visit to West Point Sept. 27, as part of a military exchange program between the two academies.
First Captain Charles Phelps and Class of 2012 Cadets Patrick Coe, Hannah Johnson and Lauren French took the Australian cadets into the classrooms and onto the fields of friendly strife. The group received some hands-on instruction in a combatives class and even spent a day practicing with the Army Rugby team, an experience Australian Defence Force Academy , or ADFA, Officer Cadet Kurt Menzies enjoyed the most.
"As a member of the ADFA rugby club, it was great to see how similar another club is, even though we come from opposite sides of the world," he said.
Menzies approached the exchange program as an opportunity to learn how different values and cultures shape the academy, as well as a chance to befriend his American counterparts, a sentiment shared by all the visitors.
"Meeting other like-minded, driven officer cadets from a different academy on the other side of the world is incredibly motivating," ADFA Officer Cadet Benjamin Studd said.
Maj. Seth Hall, the officer-in-charge of this exchange visit at West Point, said the U.S. and Australia have fought as allies throughout history. The cadet exchange program allows both academies to strengthen their bonds while giving cadets an opportunity to learn from each other.
"Exchanges such as this one ensure that the future leaders of these two armies celebrate the historically close relationship between our two countries and build upon it," Hall said. "It's completely plausible that these cadets will work with each other as allies once they are commissioned into their respective armies."
Cadets benefited from extensive tours of West Point, but also traveled beyond the gates, joining the Corps of Cadets in the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City, and sightseeing in Washington, D.C.
West Point is known for putting cadets on a tight timetable where every minute of the day is directed toward their leadership development. This was an aspect not lost on the Australian cadets, as they all came to appreciate what time management means at the academy. Even so, Menzies thought West Point seniors have a bit more freedom than his ADFA colleagues.
"In my opinion, daily life is more structured at ADFA," he said. "There is less freedom and trust, that is, compared with firsties."
Coe said the Australian cadets seemed to be impressed by the grandness of it all.
"It was the scale of everything; compared to their academy West Point is much bigger, and they've marveled at the size of the barracks, the library and Michie Stadium," Coe said.
The ADFA is a tri-service academy that provides military and academic education to the Australian army, air force and navy. The academic faculty is entirely staffed by civilian instructors, and the cadet population is just under 900. Similar to the Army-Navy rivalry here, the Australians enjoy a strong intra-academy rivalry, which is a constant aspect of cadet life. Like the West Point senior class, the Australian cadets are anxious to receive their branches and graduate as lieutenants.
ADFA Officer Benjamin Mathwin, a history and economics major, is hoping to become an intelligence officer. Following graduation, he will attend the Royal Military College Duntroon for a full year of military training. He looks forward to reuniting with the West Point cadets in March and is sure they'll come away with a memorable experience.
"If they go out bush, the drop bears will be a surprise," he said. "At ADFA, I'm sure they will find our obstacle course pretty cool."
West Point conducts numerous academy exchanges throughout the academic and summer training months. This year, the Foreign Academy Exchange Program, West Point's longstanding exchange opportunity for cadets, incorporates 24 invited countries.