By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point, Public AffairsFebruary 11, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 11, 2016) -- The United State Military Academy at West Point Class of 2016 learned their post assignments upon graduation on Jan. 28.
Roughly 200 manila envelopes lined the walls of Robinson Auditorium, each of them holding the final piece to 200 puzzles. Infantry Cadets entered the room as they looked to the wall of envelopes. Above them were the names of Army post assignments in alphabetical order: Fort Benning, Fort Bliss, Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, the wall went on.
"Post is really what you make of it," Capt. Sean Cockrill, Infantry Branch representative, said. "Overall, your job satisfaction is going to be based off your performance there so it's not that big of a deal where you get posted first."
Despite Cockrill's reassurance, Firsties filled the room with nervous chatter, unsure of where they would be spending the next two to three years of their lives. Cockrill began the night speaking to his group of infantrymen, joking that they were going to go back to the "old way" of selecting posts.
Up until 2012, Cadets would stand up one by one in order of their class rank. They would pick the post that they wanted until the last Cadet was left with the final post on the wall. The selection process has since improved.
"It's an OML (Order of Merit List) based system," Cockrill said of the computer-organized method. "The reason we switched to this system is because it eliminates human error and the system does it for us with way less error than we could ever do."
As the posting commenced, Cockrill called five names from a list and told them to stand up. He asked one of the Cadets, "Where are you going?" "Lewis?" The Cadet answered in an unsure voice. "No," Cockrill said. "You'll be surfing a little bit more."
The crowd cheered loudly, knowing that this cluster of Cadets was headed to Hawaii. As each group stood, they celebrated with their classmates, excited that their final puzzle piece had been unveiled.
"I'm so excited, it was my first choice, the post I wanted to go to since I came to West Point," said Bryan Silverman, an Infantry Cadet headed to Fort Campbell, 3rd Brigade. "It is the post and unit that all of the mentors that I have respected for my entire Cadet career have come from, for one reason or another, and I wanted to go here in many ways because I had a desire to emulate them, and you know, be a part of the history that is inherit to that unit."
In a classroom down the hall, about 75 Armor Cadets awaited their post assignments. Capt. Jeremy White, Armor Branch representative, had a different way to tell the Cadets of their posts.
As a group of Cadets would come to the front of the class, White would put different pictures and landmarks up on a PowerPoint giving them hints to their homes for the next few years.
"There's a lot of anticipation," White said. "It's an exciting time, and an exciting activity we do with them, I built their anticipation a little with the slide show."
In regards to choosing posts, White had some Cadets come visit him so they would make better informed decisions, a tactic he recommends to anyone unsure of where they may want to go.
"One of the best things I would say for the Cadets is to come see your branch rep," he said. "If they want to come in and make an educated choice on what they're doing, we are here and he have the expert knowledge so come see us and talk to us as much as you can before you make that final choice." While not everyone gets to go to their top pick, Cadets seem to have an overall good experience with their post assignments.
"Looks like I'm going to Fort Lewis," Nicholas Archuleta, an Armor Cadet, said. "It was my number two choice, after Hawaii, but you know, it's second and it's on the West Coast. I used to be prior enlisted and I've been to Texas and I've been to Fort Bragg before so I might as well hit the other side of the country. I'm real excited. I can't wait."