(Editor’s note: Skipping class is not an option for Weston Boose, a college freshman. Neither is not making his bed before he leaves the dorm. That’s because Boose, a 4-H’er from rural Norwalk, Ohio, and son of Terry and Mary Lisa Boose, is starting college life at the U.S. Military Academy. This is the first in an occasional series by contributing writer Judy Kocab on Boose’s first year in the academy, where the battlecry of “Duty. Honor. Country.” still rings.)
By JUDY KOCAB
(Part I of an occasional series)
NORWALK, Ohio — For Weston Boose of rural Norwalk, Ohio, packing for college didn’t take long.
There was no stereo, no refrigerator, no furniture or multiple boxes of things to move — not even a cell phone. He could take only one bag holding a few essentials like running shoes.
Even before the start of the academic year, they face 6-1/2 weeks of rigorous Army basic training. They will be challenged physically and mentally in ways they never thought possible, from the first day to the last day of the training with its 12-mile march with full field packs.
Many people have heard of West Point, as the academy is known because of the location on the western side of the Hudson River north of New York City. However, many do not know of its history and value to the United States.
Even before the Revolutionary War began, leaders realized how strategic this location was to control the Hudson River for the defense of the colonies. Lost to the British, but regained, the crucial area was almost again taken by the British because of a plot by Gen. Benedict Arnold. For 20,000 pounds sterling, he was going to degrade the fortifications and deliver the plans for West Point.
Without the capture of his English counterpart, the course of history would have been changed dramatically.
In an ideal world, such a school might not be necessary but George Washington wrote, “If we desire peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”
The lessons of many battles of the Revolutionary War showed the need for proper, not haphazard, military and engineer training, and in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation creating the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Military instruction continues form basic training through the four years, covering history, tactics, skills, drills and maneuvers. During the summers, advanced and specialized training, such as that for the Rangers, are conducted.
Opportunities to learn and practice leadership skills begin in the second year, for most of the operation of the academy is done by the upperclassmen, with increasing responsibility each year, under the close supervision of Army officers.
West Point has evolved from a school for military engineering to a college offering 21 majors — and the Army has gone from cavalry to high tech. the potential Army officers study physical sciences, civil and electrical engineering, law, humanities and social sciences.
Every cadet must participate in every class, every session — there is no such thing as skipping a class.
High physical fitness standards must be met to enter West Point, and maintained through the four years. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the academy’s superintendent from 1912 to 1922, believed that “Upon the fields of friendly strife, are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.”
Therefore, every cadet must participate in a sport, not only for the purpose of physical fitness, but also to instill the sense and skills of teamwork.
The academy also emphasizes the improvement of character. Officers are not just those who know military tactics and can give orders — they affect the lives of many under their command.
The academy seeks to inspire and even demand integrity and honor, and the standards are high.
From the 10,000 youths who express in interest in attending West Point, only one in 10 will be offered an appointment. For those accepted, the four years demand great effort and sacrifices.
Cadets must trade free time, video games, fast food and driving for strict discipline and constant orders of what to do, when and how to do everything, what to wear, and how to walk and eat.
There are some who find it is not the life they desire and others who cannot succeed, despite their best efforts.
So why would any young man or woman willingly, even eagerly, go through the gate on Reception Day, knowing that great effort and sacrifices will be demanded of them?
Why is Weston Boose, camp counselor and 4-H member since age 5, eager to be transported from a rural, small town life to this Spartan world?
“I want to serve my country as an Army officer,” he says. “There’s the challenge and it is something I have never done.
“This should be interesting.”
Interesting may not be the only adjective Weston uses this summer, during the grueling cadet basic training unofficially referred to as “Beast Barracks.”
(Next installment: Reception Day.)