Yearling Year: 1966-1967
One stripe on sleeves of select uniforms and a gold USMA shield on epaulets
The beginning of Yearling year began at Camp Buckner, a military training facility about 4 miles west of the main West Point grounds, but on the military reservation. Buckner bordered Lake Popolopen.
We were organized into companies and commanded by First Classmen and lived in open barracks buildings.
Two months were spent in experiencing the major combat arms: Infantry; Armor; Artillery; Signal Corps; and Corps of Engineers. As we rotated through each of these combat arms, we operated the equipment normally operated by enlisted personnel. For example, we got to drive a tank and drive a dozer among other things.
A portion of our training was called “Recondo” training (Ranger type) and involved patrolling, mountaineering, hand-to-hand combat and survival techniques. It ended by climbing a tower next to Lake Popolopen and zip-lining over a portion of the lake before letting go and dropping into the water. One then climbed a tower to a wire or rope and went hand-over-hand midway across. Letting go of one hand, saluting with another, one was to ask permission to let go and drop back into the water. Few managed to do this.
Some time during the Camp Buckner experience, my parents visited. I do not recall that we were able to leave the camp, but I think we just visited. I would imagine that my parents then visited my maternal aunt Ruth who lived near Albany, New York.
At the conclusion of the training at Camp Buckner, I found myself back in Company B-1 with roommates Tom Watson and Rick Duffy.
White trousers were worn during hotter weather. They were highly starched and pressed to a very sharp crease. We usually used a bayonet to break the starch and stood on a chair to climb into the trousers. The grey trousers were used during cold weather and were not starched.
The academic studies for the Third Class year 1966-1967 were as follows:
- Military instruction
- Physical Education
- Physics I & II
- Social Studies
- Military Psychology and Leadership
I was on the Dean’s List as of November 1966 and finished the academic year with a cumulative class rank of 74 of 878 and a class year rank of 54 of 878. On a more somber note, I was in the middle half of the class in terms of military aptitude.
As a Yearling, there was not much responsibility assigned. Of course we were to observe the rules of the Corps of Cadets and help with supervision of the Plebes, but were otherwise little involved in the running of the Corps. Nevertheless, we were rated by our own class as well as the upperclassmen.
It was during this time that sleep on the weekends became a past time. We had a comforter on the beds that was known as a ‘brown boy’ because of its color. The comforter was just that. Unfortunately, we could not keep it after graduation.
During all the years at West Point, participation in seasonal intramural activities was a requirement unless one was involved in other athletic endeavors. As I was never a member of an USMA-sponsored athletic team, I was always participating in intramural activities. Each company participated and competed against other companies within the regiment. For example, in boxing intramurals, Co. B-1 would be matched against Co. C-1. I was always happy not to be on the boxing intramural squad.
The Corps traveled to South Bend, Indiana, on October 8, 1966, to play Notre Dame, a game that we lost 35-0. What made this game special was that Kendra had convinced her family to drive her to the game unbeknownst to me. She basically wandered amongst the Corps looking for me and did find me without too much trouble.
I believe it was during Yearling year that an example occurred of the execution of the Honor Code in an unlikely cadet of Company B-1. This was a cadet who had prior service, got good grades, and would have likely achieved a high rank during Firsty year. The story begins with the understanding that a green pencil would be used to correct or note incorrect answers. Because of the Honor Code, each cadet would grade his own work with a green pencil. This particular cadet would appear to be correcting his paper with the requisite green pencil, but actually was using a lead pencil tip to write in the correct answer by holding the green pencil and the end of a lead pencil together. I believe he was caught by the professor and was gone from the Corps by the end of the day
The bathrobes shown above were authorized only for Yearlings and higher. Plebes were only allowed thin cotton bathrobes. The upperclassmen’s bathrobes could be decorated with patches or pins if desired. We were also allowed to keep them after graduation.
The ring for the Class of 1969 was designed during Yearling year, I think. A committee from our class was selected to be on the design committee. There was a desire for the ring design to be unique and impressive as compared to rings from other classes.
As I recall, the Corps was in New York City to march in a parade. A B-1 classmate (David Kremenak) and I had talked about interacting with people about Jesus Christ. David and his older brother Ken (also a West Point cadet) were very religious people. The point of the story is that we struck up a conversation with an older man who eventually asked us back to his apartment. Surprisingly, there were several other men there, too. After some conversation, one of the other men left suddenly saying, “Well, I can see that nothing is going to happen here.” Shortly after that, David and I left too. David had to explain to me that he thought we had been in the company of a group of homosexual men. I am sure that being dressed in our dress grey uniforms made us attractive targets. This was my introduction to concept of male homosexuality. I must say, we were never threatened, but recall feeling uneasy and was glad to leave the apartment and reach the relative safety of the street.
The Army football team achieved an 8-2 record during our Yearling and Cow years. During one of the years, the Black Knights were apparently invited to compete in the Sugar Bowl. However, the administration decided that the football team could not go to play in the Sugar Bowl or any other bowl game for that matter. After the rejection of Sugar Bowl’s invitation, the sugar bowls disappeared from all of the tables at the mess hall. A large banner was displayed in the mess hall with the message, “No Sugar Bowl for the football team, no sugar bowls for the Corps of Cadets”. After 24-48 hours, the sugar bowls returned to the table. As far as I know, the perpetrators were never identified.
Christmas was spent in Iowa traveling between Mason City and Colfax. I would usually try to fit in a visit to my Grandmother Garrett who was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was before I35 was completed, though parts were opened during my four years at West Point.
Following completion of the academic portion of Yearling year, I had a month leave to spend in Iowa.