The Cadet Experience: July 1, 1965 to June 4, 1969
These were my college years, though some might wonder if the United States Military Academy was actually a college. I sometimes wonder myself, since it was all-male and included daily formations and inspections and a heavy emphasis on all things military and athletic
A total of 1,134 cadets were admitted to the Class of 1969. This was the largest class admitted to West Point thus far. By contrast the Class of 1968 started with 987 being admitted, the Class of 1967 began with 819, and Class of 1966 commenced with 828. It was a time of planned expansion of the Corps and construction projects were begun and completed to handle the increased size of the Corps. New barracks for the Third Regiment were completed and the Cadet Mess Hall doubled in size. The last class for which I have admission information is for the Class of 2001 with 1,194 being admitted in 1997.
Of course, a cadet could not be married and remain a member of the Corps of Cadets. One had to sign a form that had the phrase “I am not married” under the signature line. I learned years later that perhaps a few cadets were married, but had signed the form anyway. If found out, they would have been removed from the Corps for lying.
Women were not admitted to the United States Corps of Cadets until 1976 when 119 were admitted to the Class of 1980. Sixty-two women graduated four years later.
Monthly pay for being a cadet was ½ the pay of a Second Lieutenant, but out of that came money for our cadet uniforms and food. There was actually little left over to accumulate in our accounts. Typically, any leftover money was spent in the Cadet Store to buy toiletries, personal items of clothing, and candy.
It was said that our rank was equivalent to a warrant officer.
Some definitions used in the USMA experience to follow seem appropriate, though the words may or may not appear later:
4-C: the form used by upper classmen to document perceived fault of a Plebe or New Cadet
Battalion: A unit composed of 4 companies of cadet, led by senior classman
Barracks: Dormitories where we lived
Beast barracks: slang for the two months of military training for incoming freshmen class. Also called more correctly, “New Cadet Barracks”.
Boodle: Usually referring to candy or cookies often sent by a relative or friend. Upperclassmen often knew who got a food package and would come by the room and ask for a treat…sort of like Halloween.
Bracing: A forced posture for new cadets and freshmen achieved by forcing the chin backward. The posture was assumed anytime the plebe was outside the dorm room or restrooms or classrooms.
Brigade: A unit composed of a number of battalions, led by a brigade commander, the highest cadet rank achievable. Only one chosen per year
Bugle Notes: Small grey book of information to be memorized by New Cadets
Cadet: Generic name for any male enrolled at USMA.
Central Area: The oldest part of West Point for cadets. It was marked by a clock in the middle of the area and was the old organizational center of the Corps of Cadets. It was also the area where cadets who exceeded the maximum number of demerits were required to walk with their rifles. The minimum time for walking the area was an hour; there was no maximum time. As a Firsty, the time could generally be spent confined to the dorm room.
Clothing formation: Usually involving a company of plebes during Beast Barracks. Plebes would be in formation in front of their barracks and would be given a uniform change to make and return to formation in an almost impossibly short period of time. Usually done when the company seemed to have slackened in their performance. For example, if the company performed sloppily during drills, the cadet officers might order a clothing formation. I was both subject to several clothing formations and supervised one later in my cadet career.
Company: A unit usually composed of 3 platoons of cadets, led by a senior classman
Cow year: Junior year
Fall out: Command to freshman that bracing was not required and he could assume a more natural posture. Usually granted on occasion during meals. Typically, the command to ‘fall out’ was given as a reward, usually for a skit performed by the 3 Plebes at the dinner table. Wednesday was a favorite day to come up with a skit and to ask for permission to ‘fall out’ as Wednesday was steak night.
Firsty or Firsty year: Senior/senior year
Flirtation Walk: A path adjacent to the Hudson River limited to cadets and their dates, excluding Plebes. The upperclassman usually marked out their spot off the path by hanging up their dress grey coat on a tree limb. Flirtation walk was unpoliced. Officers did not patrol. See Cow Year text. There was no flirtation walk for Plebes, though Fort Putnam and environs was used as such.
Guidon: Usually a company, battalion, or regimental flag carried by a guidon bearer whenever the unit marched.
Hazing: One or more upper classmen verbally or physically mistreating a plebe. Theoretically, hazing was not to be allowed.
Honor Code: A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.
Hop: dance event
Howitzer: The annual put out each year, featuring the First Classmen
Man in the red sash: Senior classman to whom new cadets reported.
Mess Hall: Where the cadets eat
Michie Stadium: pronounced ‘Mike-y’ The football stadium
New Cadet: cadet moniker for the first two months in Beast Barracks
Platoon: A unit composed of 3 or 4 squads of cadets, led by a senior classman
Plebe or Plebe year: freshman/freshman year
Post Toasties: Daughters of officers who lived on any military post
Recognition Day: The end of the academic year and Plebes were no longer required to brace or to address upperclassmen as “Sir”.
Regiment: At West Point, a unit composed of two battalions. There were four regiments in the USCC.
Squad: A basic unit of cadets led by a squad leader, a junior classman
Tac: Tactical officer, usually the officer-in-charge of a company of cadets
Tar bucket: Formal parade hat. Plebes, yearlings, and cows sported a kind of black felt pompon sticking up from the hat. Firsties had a taller pompons made of black feathers.
The Days: A formatted speech that could be required of a New Cadet or plebe at any time, but usually to be recited as a penalty for some infraction. It began, “Sir, the days. Today is …” It included the menu for the day, athletic and social events for the week, and the number of days until graduation for the seniors or Firsties. Plebes were required to know the films playing that week at Thayer Hall along with a synopsis of the movie.
The Corps: A poetic hymn of USMA sung acapella.
Trophy Point: Probably the spiritual center of USMA, adjacent to the parade ground
USCC: United States Corps of Cadets. This included all years.
USMA: United States Military Academy, founded in 1802
West Point: Geographic location of USMA, often used interchangeably with USMA
Yearling or Yearling year: Sophomore/sophomore year