Infantrymen, past and present gather for ball
Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 29, 2014) — The annual Infantry Ball was held Jan. 24 at Eisenhower Hall to welcome cadets who branched into the Infantry Corps. The ball was sponsored by the West Point Chapter of the National Infantry Association, which is designed to create an immediate connection between infantrymen from the past and present to more than 90 Class of 2014 cadets who will commission as Infantry second lieutenants in May.
Every part of the Infantry Ball ceremony has meaning. There is the making of the grog, the empty table with an inverted wine glass to signify fallen comrades, the toast and the awarding of the Order of Saint Maurice—the patron saint of the Infantry—and the Shield of Sparta, which is awarded to spouses who have contributed significantly to the Infantry.
To be eligible for the Order of Saint Maurice, one must have served the Infantry community with distinction; must have demonstrated a significant contribution in support of the Infantry; and must represent the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence and dedication to duty.
Four Soldiers received the Order of Saint Maurice: Maj. Charles Levine, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Barron, Maj. Jacob Cross and Sgt. 1st Class Tristan Ruark.
The Shield of Sparta medallion was awarded to spouses Arazou Barron, Erin Pare, Bettina Ruth and Britney Heflin.
Class of 2014 Cadet Daniel Sprouse adds another ingredient into the grog using an Army-issue boot. The boot represents the long treks of an Infantryman.
Retired Brig. Gen. David L. Grange was the guest speaker at the annual Infantry Ball Jan. 24 at Eisenhower Hall. Grange served 30 years in the U.S. Army leading from platoon through division level.
Class of 2014 Cadet Fritz Stepat said he decided to join the Infantry because he thought it would be interesting. Class of 2014 Cadet Andrew Heiny said it was just watching people at West Point that made him think of Infantry as a career choice.
“All the people I liked, my mentors and officers around here tend to go into Infantry,” Heiny said. “I know Brig. Gen. Grange and I think he is really amazing and I’m excited to hear him.”
Included in the ceremony is the making of the grog, which has 10 ingredients; all of which represents major conflicts fought by infantrymen since the Revolutionary War. Once the grog is complete, someone will be elected to taste the grog and pronounce it fit to drink. The grog is then shared with all.
Another significant moment in the ceremony was Operation Keep Up the Fire.
“This part of the program was the ceremonial passing of Infantry brass from current and former Infantry officers to the Infantry cadets,” Maj. Christopher Green, Department of Systems Engineering, said.
Among the 25 sets of brass was a set from Gary Dolan, a Ranger Hall of Fame inductee and Vietnam veteran, presented to Heiny. Retired Brig. Gen. David L. Grange, former commander of the 1st Infantry Division and 75th Ranger Regiment, was the guest speaker.
“You join the ranks of a special breed and you are responsible for that legacy as many have been before you,” he said. “Due to this selection, you will be watched over by St. Maurice, while doing your duty.”
Grange served 30 years in the U.S. Army leading as a Ranger, Green Beret, aviator and infantryman. He was also responsible for coordinating military support within the United States in response to natural disasters and domestic preparedness against acts of terrorism.
“You have to be physically and mentally tough and full of tenacity and compassion for your troops,” he said. “That is what makes you a good officer. You have to earn those rifles every day.”
Grange told cadets there will be tough times ahead which will put them beyond their comfort zones.
“No matter how bad it gets, you cover each other,” Grange said. “It is a readiness and morale issue. Your potential is what matters. You must measure what you do to what your potential is every day.”