At the beginning of this month, high school graduates with full heads of hair and cell phones in their pockets reported to the U.S. Military Academy. It took these starry-eyed kids just 60 seconds to realize they were kissing their old lives goodbye and starting anew. As their hair was buzzed off and their iPhones were confiscated, those kids were quickly transformed into West Point's Class of 2021 new cadets.
While they still have a long way to go, the members of the cadet cadre say that throughout the last 20-plus days of Cadet Basic Training I, the new cadets are making significant progress, and the cadre look forward to what the future will hold.
"They just didn't know how to wear the uniform," Class of 2019 Cadet William Brooks remarked about the first day of CBT I. "When they first came out to formation, everything was haphazard and we were making corrections every day. They slowly started to learn how to wear the uniform and we stopped making those corrections every day and they actually started to look good and take pride in the uniform."
In addition to maintaining their appearance, Brooks says their sense of urgency has also improved.
"A lot of them don't understand moving with a sense of purpose, like your life depends on it," he noted about the beginning of training. "When they first got here it took 13 minutes for them to get ready in the morning. Right now, the standard is five minutes and they're all reaching it, a couple are still getting there, but generally, the standards are being met."
Brooks went on to note that watching these cadets improve is incredibly important to him. This year, the new cadets will transition into the same company during the academic year.
"The cadets in this company are actually going into our academic year companies," he explained. "So there's a special sense of pride knowing that we are going to be seeing these new cadets as plebes for the rest of the academic year so that means making sure that they're squared away and set up for success."
Class of 2019 Cadet Steven Hollins agreed.
"It gives us an extra reason to take pride in our work and help develop them," he said. "Not only because it's what we want to do to help them transform into Soldiers, but also because if they are messed up when they get to the academic year, it's on us. So we have no one else to blame but ourselves."
As a platoon leader, Hollins has the job of teaching the new cadets the "basics of Soldiering," he said. Teaching them rifle marksmanship, land navigation and marching are a few of his responsibilities.
"We're teaching them the basics so they can transition into Beast II and do more field work with the new cadre," he explained.
While teaching the new cadets is Hollins' number one priority, he says it's helped him a great deal, too.
"This experience is for the new cadets to learn," he started. "But it's also for me to develop my leadership style. When I see the new cadets mess up or make a mistake, it's my job to correct them, help them fix their mistakes and then it's really rewarding."
This Sunday, new cadets will march out to Camp Buckner to begin Cadet Basic Training field exercises for two weeks.