Class of 2014 reaches another milestone on Branch Night
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 4, 2013) — The Class of 2014 assembled in Eisenhower Hall Theatre Nov. 21 to experience one of the most anticipated milestones in the life of a U.S. Military Academy cadet.
For more than 1,000 firsties, the future was literally in their hands on Branch Night.
“As I held the envelope above my head, all I could think of was all of the work I’ve put in the past four and a half years—Prep School included—to be able to get this branch,” Class of 2014 Cadet Daniel Sprouse said. “I was nervous, but more anxious than I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Excitement intensifies as they wait for the entire class to receive envelopes and then for the command to open them. In those few minutes prior, cadets try desperately to feel or see the branch insignia inside. Sprouse was hoping to branch Infantry and committed to an additional three years of service to make that happen.
“I violently opened the envelope with my hands shaking, and before I could open the card all of the way I saw a glimpse of the crossed rifles,” Sprouse said. “(I) jumped up in the air, caught by my friend who got the same thing, yelling at the top of our lungs, envelope squeezed in hand and accidently ripped the card in excitement.”
The new branching program at the academy seeks to align cadet talents with what the individual branches require of its junior officers. Even though Sprouse’s ranking in the Order of Merit List alone could have prevented him from branching Infantry, it improved through the comprehensive talent assessment. Sprouse is a company commander, has competed in Judo and Boxing and leads the Scoutmasters’ Council.
It’s an intense moment of anticipation for Class of 2014 Cadet Daniel Sprouse (center) and more than 1,000 firsties Nov. 21 on Branch Night at Eisenhower Hall Theatre as they await the command to open their envelopes and see which branch they will commission into this May upon graduation.
The pinning of branch insignia onto uniforms marks one of the most anticipated milestones in the life of a U.S. Military Academy cadets, perhaps second only to the pinning of their second lieutenant rank upon graduation.
“I was about 50/50 on if I was going to get it,” he said. “However, all my attributes and activities matched exactly what the Army said they wanted in an Infantry officer.”
Branch education emphasizes that there are no bad choices among the 16 commissionable branches, and that it is more about meeting the needs of the Army over personal desire.
“We will all be members of the profession of arms charged with the honor and privilege of leading America’s sons and daughters,” First Captain Lindsey Danilack said.
Commandant of the Corps of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clarke said it is about having a “Soldiers first” mentality and that their legacy will be not be defined by a branch, but by being an American Soldier.
“What you have to remember is that the strength of the United States Army lies in the Soldiers of each and every branch,” Clarke said. “Every branch is filled with great officers, non-commissioned officers and Soldiers—part of a combined arms team that is the envy of the world.”