By Mike Strasser, West Point Directorate of Public Affairs and CommunicationsAugust 5, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 5, 2010) -- A few hundred grew to over a thousand strong outside Washington Hall, posing the first hurdle for the new cadet cadre after the change of command ceremony July 18. The Ice Cream Social marked the first event planned and executed by the new Cadet Basic Training detail, and it proved to be a successful start for the cadets in charge.
Firstie Brittany Fraser, the CBTII Regimental Commander, said it also provided them with a boost of confidence that has carried them midway through the summer training known as "Beast Barracks."
Whereas the first cadre detail was responsible for transforming civilians into West Point cadets, the second detail completes the transformation of cadets into Soldiers, Fraser explained. Upperclass cadets are charged with leading the new cadets through basic soldiering skills like marksmanship training, rappelling and first aid.
"The second detail is a lot more field-oriented and provides more intensive training, but for a lot of cadets it's more fun," Fraser said. "They enjoy it more than lectures in a classroom. Personally, I enjoy the military aspect of training more than anything else."
Fraser believes the training new cadets currently receive has improved from what she experienced a few years ago, and most of that credit belongs to the Cow and Firstie cadets who're providing the training. Previously, cadets were charged primarily with escort duties and accountability of new cadets, while teams of active-duty Soldiers provided the hands-on training.
"This year, we had a two-week Leader Training Program where the cadets had to become subject matter experts, or as close to it as possible, on each event they're going to teach."
While active-duty Soldiers still contribute as trainers, evaluators and demonstrators throughout the summer, the recent trend of cadet-driven leadership creates a new dynamic upon cadets in training.
"At least from my perspective, the leadership, the cadet cadre, can learn so much more this way," Fraser said. "And the effect it has on the new cadets is evident, because their (the cadet cadre's) creativity is going during the training."
For example, when planning the Soldier First Responder Training, Fraser wanted the task to be a tactical scenario. The results, she said, were impressive.
"The company commanders wrote their own Operation Orders, found their training sites, requested their own ammo for fire, created their own scenarios and executed," Fraser said. "Each company came up with their own scenarios which were completely different."
As "Queen of Beast," Fraser has been asked by new cadets how she earned command of the new cadet regiment. Fraser said she tends to navigate toward assignments that place her in the field, knee-deep in military training. Last summer, she served as first sergeant during Cadet Field Training, and before that, she earned her Air Assault badge and graduated from Airborne School. Yet, her initial entry into West Point was probably the hardest obstacle she's had to face.
"I had a really rough Plebe year," Fraser said. "Beast was rough for me. The different stressors in the academy really hit my immune system hard and I couldn't (stay) healthy. Then I joined the triathlon team. Being in that atmosphere with other cadets on the team-just their work ethic alone -and their motivation to be good cadets, really pulled me out of the slump I was in. So I went from having a really dreary first semester Plebe year to having a spectacular second semester."
Fraser had a lifelong ambition to join the military, even telling her grandmother when she was seven how she wanted to be a Soldier. She decided to pursue an appointment at the Naval Academy, partly inspired by the movie "Top Gun" to become a fighter pilot. During the application process, she researched all the service academies, ROTC programs and even considered enlistment.
Fraser said it was a last-minute conversion and had to explain to her congressman during the nomination process why she wanted to attend the U.S. Military Academy instead.
"I wanted my life to be about people, and the Army seemed to provide more of that Family-like atmosphere," Fraser said. "Working with people every day and not aircrafts, machines or ships."
After graduation from Ferndale High School in 2006, she attended the Marion Military Institute in Alabama-a long way from her rural homestead in Washington State.
"I wasn't accepted right out of high school, which was a humbling experience," Fraser said. "It can be pretty hard, but it was the best decision I could have made because it set me up for success."
Fraser's studies originally focused on a pre-medical degree before her love of language led her to pursue Foreign Area Studies instead. Her first concentration was in kinesiology but she was also taking Arabic for a language. The former Life Sciences major was disappointed to learn that she wouldn't be able to continue another semester of Arabic.
"So I decided on a major I knew I enjoyed, I had fun with, and would look forward to going to class everyday to learn," Fraser, who spent three weeks in Egypt for a Department of Foreign Languages immersion program, said. "It's not only the language aspect; it's the culture and geography. I like studying the Middle East. I think it's one of the most misunderstood cultures in the world."
On Aug. 14, the new cadet regiment will march onto the Plain for the Acceptance Day Parade and officially be accepted into the Corps of cadets as Plebes.
"Our goal is to make this the best Plebe class that West Point has ever had," Fraser said. "And I think we're going to do it; this is a very motivated cadre."
There are different measures of success, and Fraser said one of them will be determined this week during the Hyde Challenge, for both the new cadets and the cadre. The new cadets must use all the knowledge and training they've acquired throughout CBT and apply it to the three-day tactical event. Likewise, the success of the cadet cadre will be gauged on how well they have planned and executed this culminating exercise, and whether they've trained the new cadets well enough to pass such a challenge.
"Success to me is not only evaluating them and knowing if they're proficient in the skills we've taught them, but the fact they all return to West Point," Fraser said. "I would be more than happy to see all the new cadets graduate from CBT, but I know that doesn't always happen. I guess success for me would be them having a sense of pride in what they've done, having completed something that no other CBT class has ever accomplished and having the confidence to be successful going into the academic year."
Her duties as CBTII commander may expire after Acceptance Day, but what Fraser defines as a successful mission remains to be seen.
"Well, 'mission accomplished' to me, is more on how the Plebes do during the academic year as well," Fraser said. "It's still our job and our mission to continue developing those Plebes so they can be successful; and when it's their time to train new cadets, they can be better than we were."