By Michelle EberhartSeptember 16, 2016
Tanks, helicopters, satellites and other Army machinery covered the Plain from Sept. 10-16--Branch Week. Branch representatives from each of the Army's 17 branches came to West Point to educate cadets on the in's and out's of each branch, allowing them to make informed decisions during the branch selection process.
While the Class of 2017 is the only class that must make their list of top choices this year, the entire corps scattered the field throughout the week, trying to figure out which branch was best for them.
"Branch Week is very unique, it's a special opportunity for the cadets to come here and experience all 17 branches, we get that education piece, as well as talk to the junior and senior NCO's," Class of 2017 Cadet Terrence Thomas said. "I was torn between Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, all combat arms. But Branch Week is allowing me to succinct and narrow that choice down, looking at the Soldiers from that career field, looking at those NCO's and refining my personal search."
As of right now, Thomas says his number one choice is Infantry. And now, after talking to Infantry branch representatives, he knows what to expect.
"You're leading Soldiers in a very physically demanding and ever-changing environment," Thomas said of Infantry. "So (the branch reps and I) talked about physical fitness, direct leaderships, setting your conditions for your Soldiers to succeed, and intrinsically looking at myself, looking at my goals and seeing how well they align."
Thomas also has some pointers for the underclassmen.
"Take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to you," he said. "Really dive into those branches. That way when your firstie year comes, you're not scrambling around, trying to figure out what you need to do. You'll already have your azimuth checked and you're just b-lining and going right to your plan."
Class of 2017 Cadet Jalal Dar says that he's enjoyed exploring the Branch Week displays.
"I think it's a good opportunity to get a taste of everything, see what the Army has to offer, especially before you commit to something," Dar noted.
As for his top choice, Dar knows what he wants.
"I'm thinking FA (Field Artillery), I'm a big fan," he said. "It seems like the coolest branch, you get a little bit of everything, you get the field, you get all of it."
Aside from speaking to branch representatives, Dar has taken advice from some of his former classmates.
"I've talked to a couple of cadets who have graduated and from what I've heard, they absolutely love it," Dar said. "Having someone who has recently done it gives you a more realistic view of what you can expect in terms of training and going to your unit and all that fun stuff."
While the firsties are making their final decisions, underclassmen were able to freely roam the Plain and explore their options.
Class of 2019 Cadet Mara Kagawa stood in front of the Military Police table, and is formerly Med Service, but she has other plans.
"I want to go Armor," Kagawa said, noting that this is the first year that female cadets have the opportunity to be placed into the Combat Arms branches during Branch Night. "Right now, just the idea to even be able to do Combat Arms is pretty motivating."
After speaking to a branch representative, Kagawa realized what she'll have to do for the next two years to make herself a competitive candidate for the Armor branch.
"Seeing the tank and talking with the officer, I realized I have to start working out a lot more than I already am, so I have to put in that extra portion in order for me to get that branch," she said. "I learned what to expect for Armor BOLC and what I need to do as a smaller person in order to get in."
Notably, Kagawa said she was the first person, man or woman, to turn on the Abrams, the heavy Armor tank--she hopes this means she's off to a good start.
After the Class of 2017 cadets make their list of preferences, they will finally find out which branch they'll be assigned to during Branch Night, Nov. 17.