By Brandon OConnorSeptember 18, 2019
Spread throughout the apron of The Plain at the U.S. Military Academy, the Army's 17 branches worked to recruit their future officers.
Branch Week at West Point brings together representatives from each of the branches to enable cadets to learn more about their postgraduation options and for the branches to sell themselves to future officers.
The heavy equipment began rolling in over the weekend and will stay in place through Saturday, giving cadets the opportunity to visit the displays and learn more about the roles of each branch and what life is like for their officers.
Upper-class cadets have the ability to tour the displays at their leisure and while plebes and yearlings have the same freedom, they also have designated rotations through each station in order to give them an initial understanding of every option available.
"I'm aiming at learning about the different career paths, what opportunities are available in each different branch and for the branches that catch my eye I want to know more specifically how do I go about succeeding in that branch," Class of 2022 Cadet John Gordon said.
After going through the displays for the first time as a plebe last year and then taking time to walk through again this year, aviation has stuck out to Gordon as his top choice so far. With two more chances to go through Branch Week before locking in his final branch rankings as a firstie, his goal is to learn as much as possible to inform his decision.
"My questions are a little bit more pointed this year than they were last year," Gordon said. "Last year, I just kind of wanted to see ... what they're doing? But this year, I can (ask) what is my captain's time looking like for this branch. I know a little bit more to get more information out of the people I'm talking to."
Class of 2020 cadets will lock in their branch preferences for the sixth and final time next week and will find out their branches in November. With the introduction of the new branching system, the Department of Military Instruction will also be running a simulation using the cadet's fifth ranking they locked in within the past few weeks and telling them which branch they would have been slotted into.
The simulation results and Branch Week are Class of 2020 cadets' last opportunity to gather information to decide their top branches and whether they want to Branch of Choice Active Duty Service Obligation (BRADSO) for their top choice.
"Air defense is my top choice so that's the only one I'm really focusing on," Class of 2020 Cadet Josephine Marsh said. "Talking with them has made me more excited about the branch and opportunities that I'm going to have. One of the things that really sticks out to me about the branch is that I'll actually be able to utilize my major, which is physics with a minor in nuclear science. You don't really get that chance most places."
For branches with less name recognition, Branch Week is an opportunity for them to introduce themselves to 4,400 future officers.
Within the engineer branch, the Army divers have only 130 members between officers and enlisted Soldiers. Although they may find only one or two cadets interested in diving during Branch Week, the chance to let cadets know about the possibilities and what they do is invaluable.
"It's an opportunity for us to get our name out there a lot. For the cadets, this might be the only time they ever actually interact with an Army diver," Capt. Maxwell McDonald, commander of the 74th Dive Detachment, said. "For those who don't want to be divers, just want to be engineers, it just broadens their scope of the different facets the engineer regiment has as well as the Army as a whole."
Along with their static displays, each branch holds briefings with cadets to teach them more about their branches and what opportunities are available within each career field.