Extracurriculars explored at DCA Club Night
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 28, 2013) — The Directorate of Cadet Activities hosted Club Night inside Eisenhower Hall Aug. 26 for the hundreds of cadets looking for something to do after class and on weekends.
Packed nearly wall-to-wall with booths for various athletic, academic, religious, support and hobby clubs, cadets discovered the successes, significance and contributions these extracurriculars provide to its members and the academy.
When pitching their credentials to prospective members, the West Point Handball team could boast they are one of the oldest active handball clubs in the country and have been ranked national champions 25 times.
Class of 2014 Cadet Jake Bennett is a four-year member of the team and recalled being pulled from the crowd at Club Night as a plebe.
“Someone just grabbed me and asked if I’ve played sports before,” Bennett said. “I was looking for a sport and didn’t even know what handball was. I made the team and have played ever since.”
Overall athleticism is what they were after, more so than experience.
“We can’t really recruit people who’ve played before, because pretty much we’ve never gotten anyone who has played handball before,” Bennett said. “I don’t think it’s ever happened.”
During tryouts, stamina and skill will be tested with rounds of dodgeball and basketball before handball-related drills and scrimmages in the latter days. Most newcomers will join the Gold Team—equivalent to junior varsity—while the seasoned members compose the Black Team. The current roster has less than 20 members, and they are hoping to get another 10 after tryouts.
“The tryouts are physically intensive,” Bennett said. “We’ll usually have anywhere between 75 and 130 cadets go through the rigorous tryouts, so they need to stand out.”
The Law Enforcement Tactics Club isn’t just for those interested in branching Military Police. Its members benefit from experiencing the civilian and military perspective of law enforcement. When Class of 2015 Cadet Roberto Huie joined the club a couple years ago, members traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with members of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and Army Criminal Investigation Division. Locally, Huie said the club has plans to work with West Point’s Special Reaction Team within the Military Police Detachment.
Class of 2015 Cadet Marcie Jhong and Class of 2016 Cadet Natalie Budner were signing up cadets on the third floor for the West Point Climbing Team, while its cadet-in-charge, Class of 2016 Cadet Julian Barker was suspended by a rope in between floors to demonstrate what the club is all about.
“We don’t necessarily look for cadets who’ve climbed before. We look for potential and passion for climbing,” Jhong said. “It’s not so much what they have done, but what they can do.”
Barker loves climbing and said the club is like a second family to her.
“We’re all about togetherness and I’m learning new things every day,” she said. “I’m challenging myself with rappeling and battling heights and different fears that I have.”
The Climbing Team offers an open session twice a week for the entire Corps to experience climbing. Cadets also receive an introduction to this skill in their Military Movement course at Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center.
Members of the West Point Model UN Club were looking for cadets interested in foreign policy, diplomatic strategy and an overall ability to convince people to agree to their way of thinking.
Members of the West Point Cycling Team recruit new members during Club Night inside Eisenhower Hall Aug. 26. After all the signatures are collected, various clubs will conduct tryouts and interviews.
“We hope that you will learn from our experiences as we have learned from you,” Huntoon said. “Take advantage of these days and share what you have learned here. When you become officers, this is how you will lead—as one team. We never fight alone, but together as international coalitions.”
In addition to FAEP, for more than 100 years the U.S. Military Academy has accepted international cadets into the Corps for the entire four-year program. Currently, 56 international cadets from 36 countries are studying at West Point.
Class of 2014 Cadet Jeffrey Perez represented West Point with Class of 2013 Cadet Stuart Caudill during their visit to the Mu’tah University in Jordan.
“It was a very strict academy and the cadets there are very close-knit,” Perez said. “They are actually separated by majors rather than by classes like we are.”
Perez, a political science and Arabic major, experienced the unique military culture there from his time with Jordanian officers, and dined with them at the Officer’s Club. A foreign special operations officer served as their tour guide. Class of 2015 Cadet Nicolas Rodriguez attended the Academia Militar Marechal Samora Mache in Mozambique and said his Portuguese improved tenfold in his time there.
“It’s pretty hard to describe because it was a completely new experience, beyond anything I could have imagined,” he said. “It was a completely different culture, lifestyle and environment. But being around the other military academy cadets there made me feel at home. We all share the same ideology, if not cultures, and, despite the different backgrounds, we share the same goals as military officers. We’re still one team.”
Learn more and follow the various club activities on the DCA website at:
Class of 2016 Cadet Julian Barker climbs his way up the wall on the third floor of Eisenhower Hall Aug. 26 as he represents the West Point Climbing Team during Club Night.