By Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsDecember 2, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 2, 2011) -- For the Class of 2012, this was the big one. The moment. They began their West Point experience some 41 months ago -- wading through a sea of unknowns -- and now probably the most significant of those unknowns was revealed during Branch Night.
At the branch notification ceremony on Dec. 1, the Class of 2012 discovered how they will serve as officers in the U.S. Army, whether it be Infantry, Quartermaster, and Air Defense or in any of the 16 branches.
During the ceremony, Class of 2012 Cadet Charles Phelps, the Corps of Cadets' first captain, extended a round of applause to the many branch representatives, tactical officers and noncommissioned officers and instructors who served as mentors during the arduous process of branch selection.
Speaking to his class, Phelps reminded them of the past 41 months, from Reception Day, cadet basic training and now only months away from graduation, to get where they are.
"This evening, we share a collective occasion to celebrate," he said. "Branch Night is one of the landmark events in our progression through the West Point experience that falls in cadence with the memories we created. The symbol sealed in the envelope represents the edge of a precipice we now stand upon."
Phelps said upon receiving their branch, the "firsties" can now begin shaping the mental image of their contributions to their new teams.
"Regardless of branch, we will cross paths again; potentially in hostile environments where our ability to act decisively and with cohesion will be vital," he said. "It is critical that we embrace tonight's results and depart from this theater to prepare for the demands of our respective branches with relentless optimism."
After the speeches were made and the order to open envelopes was given, 94 percent of the Class of 2012 received one of their top three desired branches. Almost 76 percent of the class achieved their top choice, and it was reported at the ceremony that no cadet received their last choice.
Phelps was among the 239 cadets to branch Infantry, which was the most sought after of the 16 branches. Class of 2012 Cadet Timothy Tieng erupted with joy after discovering he was among those cadets.
"I'm feeling really great about this. It's an amazing moment and everything was worth it," Tieng said.
Tieng said he drew from all his experiences at West Point in determining what branch he wanted.
"I looked at the branch I thought was great and one I would be really good at," he said. "After the multiple summer training experiences, I thought Infantry would be great."
Later he donned an olive green infantry cap and joined his fellow future infantry officers in pinning the branch insignia to their uniforms.
Not everyone in the Class of 2012 was able to share in the festivities at Eisenhower Hall. Nearly 30 cadets are studying abroad this semester, some as far away as Morocco, Brazil and China; they were notified electronically or by telephone from their tactical officers. For some athletic teams, including the Wrestling, Women's Basketball and Swimming and Diving teams, small locker room ceremonies were conducted.
Class of 2012 Cadets Meagan Doucette, Erin Jankowski and Kait Goodall received their branch notifications following Army's 55-51 home win over Hawaii that night. Doucette and Goodall, team co-captains, both received their first choice and earned their Aviation wings among 120 from the Class of 2012. Jankowski, the student assistant coach, also received her top choice and will join the Engineers Corps.
"This is literally everything that we worked for," Doucette said. "It's the reason you work hard in class, the reason you push yourself in everything you do."
Doucette was largely undecided about what she wanted to branch until this year, but is convinced she has made the right choice.
"I've never talked to anyone who could say anything bad about Aviation, and everybody I know [in that branch] absolutely has no regrets and loves it," she said.
Speaking of regrets, Goodall said despite missing out on the initial celebrations with her class at Ike Hall, getting to spend it with her team was just as special.
"It's a big night for our class, but I love my team," she said. "After our win tonight, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my night than out here on the court with my teammates, with my friends."
Field Artillery will be welcoming 145 members of the Class of 2012 and another 134 will become Engineer officers.
Ninety-nine firsties will branch Armor, 51 are headed to Air Defense Artillery, 38 will join the Signal Corps and 23 chose Adjutant General. The Military Intelligence community will receive 53 from the Class of 2012, 15 more chose Military Police, nine selected Chemical Corps and six will branch Finance. Among the future logistics officers, 23 firsties will join the Quartermaster Corps, 33 will serve as Ordnance officers and 19 will enter the Transportation Corps.
In addition, 20 cadets will join the medical service and 18 have been nominated for medical school. The Class of 2012 will receive their orders and postings in the spring.
(Editor's note: Tracy Nelson, Army Athletic Communications, contributed to this story)