Club Night showcases cadet activities at Crest Hall
By Mike Strasser
It was mostly shoulder-to-shoulder at Crest Hall Aug. 20 as the plebes packed it in for Club Night. Having finished their first day of the academic year, the annual event offered the newest members of the Corps of Cadets a chance to learn all about the extracurricular activities the academy offers through the Directorate of Cadet Activities.
In one stop, cadets could match their interests with a variety of athletic, academic, military and spiritual clubs. It also allowed current club members the opportunity to recruit and promote their activity, which often required ample volume to be heard in a roaring crowd.
Class of 2014 Cadet Nate Gooden and his crew had no issue there, with the backing of a powerful sound system to amplify their calling card as the “Voice of the Corps.” Goodin joined the cadet radio club, WKDT, as a plebe because it was familiar territory for the Palm Beach, Fla., native.
“Back home I have a studio from my father who was a DJ in college,” Gooden said. “So when I came to West Point I didn’t realize they had a club like this. But when I found out I was intimately interested.”
Now as the club cadet-in-charge, Gooden hoped to sign about 30 new members and expected at least a dozen to dedicate themselves to club activities. Two mobile stations just outside Ike Hall allowed cadets to hear—and feel, thanks to some powerful subwoofers—the sounds produced by the cadet disc jockeys. Along with operating the academy’s only radio station, club members also provide DJ services and support nearly every major cadet event, as well as many FMWR events.
Gooden said the club is looking to branch out even further with an online presence.
“We’ll have programs that will go online hopefully this year so we can expand our reach to graduates, the community at large and the Corps of Cadets,” Gooen said.
Time is a commodity for cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, and during Club Night they decide what activity will occupy this precious asset. Last year, Class of 2015 Cadet Pierce Willenbrock had a strong interest in paintball, but was also drawn to the Combat Weapons team during Club Night. Now a second-year member, he is happy with his choice.
“I knew the tryout would be tough, but I had to pick one or the other knowing there was no going back,” he said. “I got on the team and it has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done at West Point so far.”
He said the Combat Weapons Team focus is on individual marksmanship skills with the shotgun, pistol and rifle, which develops cadets to become better trainers—a useful skill in any Army career. “We develop that through regular practice, maybe two or three times a week,” he said. “After your first year on the team, we branch out from the three-weapon system and go more into foreign weapons.”
Class of 2016 Cadet Theo Adama put his name down on paper more than once during Club Night. “Boxing, Combatives, Jazz Forum, Glee Club, the radio station … a few things,” Adama said. “Boxing is the club I really hope to get in; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do in the Army.” Class of 2013 Cadet Matthew Berman and Class of 2014
Cadet Andrew Carlson promoted the Small Unit Tactics Club in full battle rattle and attracted the attention of cadets making their way into Ike Hall. Ski Patrol members also found it easier to corral cadets outside where the traffic was less congested. Their ski outfits drew less attention than the fact they wore fake mustaches, a strange custom they developed a couple years ago. Most clubs are looking for dedication over experience from new members.
Class of 2013 Cadet James Perry said he was recruited as a freshman from the former combatives club cadet-in-charge during Cadet Basic Training. The offer was a free dinner for any new cadet who could beat him, which Perry managed to do once before the senior graduated. Now as the club’s cadet-in-charge, Perry wasn’t able to recruit this summer; he was at Fort Hood, Texas, on a Cadet Troop Leader Training mission where he found time to train with the combatives team there.
“A lot of people watch mixed martial arts on TV, and it’s actually becoming the fastest-growing sport right now,” Perry said. “In my opinion, it’s kind of a gut check and it’s the ultimate form of competition.”
Class of 2013 Cadet Giovanna Camacho, one of the founding members of the Women’s Boxing Team, was thrilled to watch her sport on the world stage for the first time in the London Olympics.
“It was a crazy, exciting feeling to know there are so many people supporting women’s boxing and the passion for that sport is incredible,” Camacho said.
Camacho said a number of cadets who watched the Olympics were surprised to see a team at West Point. “The response has been great and we have at least 10 cadets signed up so far, as well as 12 returning team members,” Camacho said. “We’re going to come out strong and motivated, and we’re going to make it to nationals this year.”
(Editor's Note: This article was updated with a correction to the name of a cadet originally misspelled.)