Club Night offers eclectic range of extracurriculars
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 26, 2014) — There’s been some new developments with the Directorate of Cadet Activities’ extracurricular program as evident on Club Night at Eisenhower Hall Aug. 19.
The most obvious is the absence of the men’s and women’s rugby clubs—both approved for collegiate athletics status this season. The women’s lacrosse team is also headed to the NCAA, but while it’s in a transitional phase this year, team members still represented their sport at Club Night and spoke with cadets.
With the crossfit craze still building steam, cadets can choose to join the new Functional Fitness Club, with Maj. Josh Hunter as officer-in-charge. Carol Miller, DCA extracurricular manager, noted that clubs previously fell under one of six categories—such as academic, competitive, religious and so on. A seventh category—Diversity—has been added to reflect its significant impact at the academy. Clubs like the Corbin Forum, International Cadets of West Point, Spectrum and the Secular Student Alliance will all be included in this category.
For a full list of DCA clubs, visit http://www.usma.edu/dca/SitePages/Home.aspx.
Tae Kwon Do
Securing a corner space at Crest Hall during Club Night, the Tae Kwon Do team was represented by Class of 2016 Cadet Rahul Sawhney and Class of 2017 Cadet Aaron Markey, cadets-in-charge. The team competes in all weight divisions and all experience levels, so it was pretty much an open market for them at Club Night.
The basic pitch for the club was that although they’re a hobby club they get to travel a lot for competitions. A less attractive proposition for some, they said blood will be shed.
“The competitions are tough and we have to fight hard,” Markey said. “We’ll get bloodied up, and it really takes determination to win. It’s not easy, but we work hard at it.”
Class of 2015 Cadets Will Moore and Ken Voet, as captain and cadet-in-charge, respectively, of the Parliamentary Debate team, were available to explain their style of persuasion.
“It’s a rhetoric-based form of debate, a little unlike the policy team that is more evidence-based. Ours depends more on qualitative analysis and on-the-fly debate topics,” Moore said. “It’s what you’d expect from a dinner conversation that gets heated between two family members, but just in a more formal setting.”
Moore joined as a plebe in a somewhat unusual way. He knew someone who was leaving the team, and Moore asked to be his replacement.
“It just sounded incredibly interesting to me and I was sick of debating my roommates,” he said.
Raw talent and innate ability seem to work well for the team, Moore said, when developing inexperienced members at the beginning of a season.
“At the same time we have a yearling this year, Nathan Hernandez, who debated four years in high school and at a college-level with a ton of success, so we get some combination of the two,” Moore said.
Voet said one of the main goals is novice development, a category they struggled with last semester.
“The novices will be the determining factor on whether we return to Boise State and win the national championship this year,” Voet said.
There are three stages to tryouts. Candidates will first be interviewed, tested on current events and then deliver a constructive speech.
“That allows us to assess not only how they can form an argument but how they compose the rhetoric for that argument,” Voet said. “We have about 40 try out every year with spots open for about eight to 10. Unfortunately there are debaters we wish we could have that had to be cut. But in the end we’ll have a pretty good group of freshmen, and we’re excited to build off the success from last year.”
The Ultimate Frisbee team continues to make leaps and bounds after two seasons as a hobby club, according to Class of 2016 Cadet Alec Chosewood, team captain.
“We’ve really been stepping up and becoming that competitive tier-one team in the league,” Chosewood said. “This is something cadets choose to do on their own time. They sacrifice three days per week to come out and practice, they work out on their own and I think they’re the most committed group of guys I’ve seen.”
He said the team only lost two firsties to graduation but are looking to build its roster to stay competitive this season. Additionally, Chosewood said they are working on public outreach to bring attention to both the club and the sport of Ultimate by possibly hosting clinics for local students and challenging an All-Star Faculty team in an exhibition.
Class of 2016 Cadet Elizabeth Thomas serves as the public affairs officer for the Glee Club and said the biggest club news of late has been the approval of full authos, which grants DCA clubs additional time for practice in lieu of company athletics and drilling. For the Glee Club, that means an additional day of rehearsal and a day allotted for physical training together.
“This is great news for us because we have a busy schedule ahead and some awesome events coming up,” Thomas said.
On Sept. 11, the Glee Club will be performing at Trinity Church on Wall Street with the West Point Band and will travel with Army Football to sing Sept. 20 at the Wake Forest game. Later, the cadets will sing with Alumni Glee Club in Washington, D.C. The Glee Club will also perform with Trace Adkins in November at Eisenhower Hall.
Thomas was in her high school’s musical theatre program when she watched the “Game of Honor” documentary about the Army-Navy Game. “The Glee Club was in it and I thought it was really cool that they were a part of that,” she said. “I decided then the Glee Club would be something awesome to do, because I like to sing, make friends and travel.”
There's a club to fit everyone's interests, whether it be academic, competitive, religious or military. Some require tryouts and others welcome in new members immediately. The Directorate of Cadet Activities hosts Club Night to allow plebes a chance to explore all club options and sign up for whatever suits their abilities and schedules.
At Club Night, cadets could choose from a wide variety of extracurricular programs, and representatives were available to demonstrate and talk about their clubs, like the Climbing Team as seen in this photo.
Class of 2016 Cadet David Solomon is the cadet-in-charge of the Howitzer Club, which designs and produces the annual class yearbook. Prior to Club Night, he estimated about five members remained on staff since last semester, which isn’t a concern since it’s typically a small group of photographers, copy writers and graphic designers.
“We start with a much larger group but then it tends to dwindle throughout the year,” Solomon said. “We do most of our creative work at the beginning, a lot of the photography happens in the first semester, so then by the end of the year what remains is a lot of cut-and-paste work.”
The Howitzer is as much a tradition as the class ring or 100th Night for the Long Gray Line, Solomon said. It serves not only as a personal memento, but a serious archival history, considering how often the Howitzer is used to glimpse into the past of such graduates as Gen. Raymond Odierno or Mike Krzyzewski.
With all things going digital and the print industry in decline, Solomon thinks the Howitzer is best-suited in hard cover over electrons.
“There’s so much more value in actually having a physical paper copy of the Howitzer,” Solomon said.
For other clubs, cyberspace is definitely the way to go. The Cadet Competitive Cyber Club, also known as C3T, started at West Point as a chapter of the Special Interest Group for Security, Audit and Control, also known as SIGSAC. Acronyms aside, these two groups parted ways to form separate club identities. SIGSAC is more about providing an educational environment to improve computer and network security skills.
“We learn all sorts of topics regarding cyber security—offense and defense,” Class of 2017 Cadet Christopher Maixner, cadet-in-charge, said. “We’ve seen more interest in the club in recent years because of the growth of this field in the Army, which is really exciting for us.”
No prior knowledge is required, Maixner said, just intellectual curiosity. The C3T team participates in online “capture the flag” competitions which they can participate in through the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
“We compete worldwide against teams ranging from high school to post-PhD,” Class of 2016 Cadet Jessie Lass said. “Last year there was a special division for undergraduate teams and we ranked 12th overall in North America.”
The roster is capped at 16, and with five returning members and several close to validating the club was looking to pick up about four plebes during Club Night. The tryouts consisted of a 12-hour online competition.
“It’s more than just ability we’re looking for,” Lass said. “I came onto the team as a plebe with nothing more than the knowledge from our basic Information Technology class and now I’m the cadet-in-charge,” Lass said.
Pipes & Drums
The Pipes and Drum Club is a well-traveled and highly-sought support club, but some would find it surprising that there aren’t tryouts and no prior experience is required to join.
“All we’re looking for are people who want to support the Corps and our mission, that’s first and foremost,” Class of 2015 Cadet Zach Thompson said. “A lot of members come into the band without having played an instrument. We have instructors come in to teach our cadets.”
They support every home Army Football game, local parades, the annual West Point Military Tattoo, but they also compete in the Highland Games, at the Army-Navy Game (back-to-back wins in 2011-12) and other events.
The club’s manager, Class of 2015 Cadet Devin Croney, takes care of all the administrative duties so the band can focus on performing. He works on event scheduling, meals, travel and promoting the team through social media and the DCA website.
Membership is not exclusive to Club Night, he said. Oftentimes, cadets will see them at tailgates or parades and ask about joining.
“It’s not unusual to pick up members anytime throughout the year,” Croney said. “We’ll tell them to come to practice, meet the band and we’ll set them up with a trainer. If they want to commit to playing and traveling with us, we’ll bring them in.”
Thompson joined as a plebe and has been playing bass drum all four years. He said experienced members cover down and teach the new members and prepare them for performances.
“For me, it’s been the camaraderie that has meant the most,” Thompson said. “I’ve built a lot of friendships in the band and it’s been a great experience to get out into the community and see it from an entirely different perspective that a lot of people don’t have the chance to experience.” Cadets who just didn't get enough of summer training can continue developing their skills in clubs such as Small Unit Tactics, Combat Weapons, Drill, Pistol, Aviation or Law Enforcement Tactics.