New cadets take on Kennedy Challenge
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 15, 2013) — The Kennedy Challenge was the final test for the new cadets during Cadet Basic Training, held over a two-mile course throughout Camp Buckner Aug. 10 and covering all they’ve learned since arriving on Reception Day.
Named in honor of Maj. Tom Kennedy, a Class of 2000 graduate who was killed while deployed in Afghanistan, the challenge included air assault obstacles on the Marne Confidence Course, drill and ceremony—based on a drill competition model—tactical casualty care, communications and a fire team live-fire exercise.
New cadets were also graded on their response to a chemical attack by how quickly and correctly they donned and sealed their protective masks, after which they had to move casualties out of the area before putting on additional protective gear. The final event required platoons to move a Zodiac raft about 40 meters from the dock to a floating platform before swimming the rest of the length of Lake Popolopen to the shore.
Waterlogged and clearly exhausted, new cadets and cadre were allowed brief exchanges of congratulations before attending the Kennedy Memorial at Chapel Point. Despite all they’ve endured and accomplished to complete CBT, many of the new cadets said paying tribute to a fallen hero was the real defining moment of the challenge.
“We all moved together as a platoon and finished the challenge together,” New Cadet Matt McKee, Company G, said. “I think that’s what Maj. Kennedy would have wanted. He always worked well with others and us finishing the challenge at the memorial for him was a great honor.”
“It was a difficult challenge,” New Cadet Steven Tibbles, also of Co. G, said. “Our platoon sergeant reminded us that we weren’t doing this only for ourselves but in memory of Maj. Kennedy.”
Tibbles said the memorial allowed new cadets to learn about the life of this West Point graduate who served as a brigade executive officer and later as a tactical officer for the Corps.
“It was a good commemoration of how he lived as a father, friend and officer,” Tibbles said.
An awards ceremony was conducted the following evening at Camp Buckner parade field where the CBT regimental commander, Class of 2014 Cadet Jae Yu, congratulated the new cadets for reaching the end of CBT.
“In these past six transformative weeks, each and every one of you accomplished the necessary skills to become a successful leader in our profession of arms,” Yu said. “The teamwork, drive and determination you displayed in the culminating challenge proved you are ready to become a member of the United States Corps of Cadets.”
The new cadets complete their final test of Cadet Basic Training with the Kennedy Challenge Aug. 10. They were awarded for their efforts during an awards ceremony the following evening. See below for list of awardees.
Co. D earned the Best Company steamer, awarded for the best performance throughout CBT and for having cadets who demonstrated motivation and proficiency at all training sites. Also from Co. D, New Cadet Jack Bagdadi was the recipient of the Best Overall New Cadet Award.
The Kennedy Challenge Award went to Co. H, with 1st Platoon earning the best overall score among all the platoons in the CBT regiment. The cadets will sign and deliver the CBTII Challenge Rock to Kennedy’s academic year company in recognition of his sacrifice to the nation.
In attendance were graduates from the Classes of 1945 to 2011 to commemorate the event with the Class of 2017. Thirty-three graduates from the Class of 1967, the 50-year affiliation class, were there to support the new cadets. Following the ceremony, the new cadets entertained the crowd with a talent show and unveiled the Class of 2017 motto, “So Others May Dream.”
Class of 2014 Cadet Louis Tobergte served as the regimental command sergeant major and had a final challenge for the Class of 2017—one which he issued at the start of the second detail of CBT. He then proceeded to lead the new cadets in reciting the Code of Conduct, memorized article-by-article, an impressive display judging from the looks of the academy’s senior leaders on stage.
“Hooah, 2017, I’m proud of each and every one of you,” Tobergte said. “I saw you push every single day of this detail. You never settled once, you’ll never settle the next four years here, or in your Army career.”
The Kennedy Challenge was the final test for the new cadets during Cadet Basic Training, held over a two-mile course throughout Camp Buckner Aug. 10 and covering all they’ve learned since arriving on Reception Day.