Class of 2015 cadets take affirmation oath
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Aug. 21, 2013) — Back in the summer of 2011, the Class of 2015 cadets raised their right hands and took an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the sovereignty of the nation.
This commitment to serve the Army, plus the rigors of academics and military training at West Point, can weigh heavily in the minds of cadets. Priorities may change for some—pursuing different educational and career opportunities or starting a family early—which is why this oath is renewed.
The Affirmation Ceremony marks the occasion when they firmly commit themselves to graduating and becoming commissioned officers. It legally binds them to honor their service obligations and for some the decision is simple.
Class of 2015 Cadet Gene Fogh said that decision was made before even arriving on Reception Day.
“I probably had my mind made up in high school that I wanted a full Army career. Maybe, now and then, there would be thoughts about whether it was the right choice, but they never last long,” Fogh said.
Fogh serves as the class ring and crest committee chairman and said the Affirmation Ceremony felt like actually joining the profession of arms for the first time.
“Before this, we knew we were cadets and that we joined the Army but this ceremony is about committing to the profession,” Fogh said.
Class of 2015 Cadet Kyle Warren had no doubts he would take the oath of affirmation with his classmates Aug. 18 at Robinson Auditorium. Warren is a kiniseology major who is taking on pre-med courses in pursuit of becoming an Army physician.
“I’ve always wanted to become a doctor and I really want to help Soldiers in that way,” Warren, the class vice president, said. “For me, this is about serving my country, helping the men and women who are also serving and being proud of what I can contribute.”
Class of 2015 Cadet Hope Landsem, the class secretary, said other than 500th Night, the Affirmation Ceremony is a huge milestone this year.
“I think the Affirmation Ceremony puts all other events into perspective because this is the time when we are officially making that legally-binding commitment,” she said. “I think events after this will have more significance because we’ve already become bound to our obligations to the Army and will defend the country upon graduation.”
Landsem said the ceremony also gives them an opportunity to connect with their 50-year affiliation class. Several members of the Class of 1965 were in attendance, to include the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veteran Affairs, who addressed the class.
Like many of her classmates, she had little doubts of making this commitment from the start. The fact that cadets have two years without repercussions makes having those doubts easier to explore.
“I’ve never seriously considered it, but there will be times when you’re up at 2 in the morning...you know, do I really have to be here right now? That makes this all the more important because, despite things like that, I want to be here and so do 1,000-plus of my classmates,” Landsem said.
In a sense there was no decision for Class of 2015 Cadet Cort Thompson. As a prior service cadet with two deployments to Afghanistan, Thompson re-enlisted before arriving to West Point. Thompson knows other prior service cadets who’ve returned to active duty before graduating and understands those moments of doubt everyone experiences.
“I want to see this through,” Thompson said. “I’ve made a lot of solid friendships here and that definitely helps, but serving in the Army is something I was always going to commit myself to. I never thought I would cross over into officership but I took the opportunity that was presented to me and I have no regrets.”
Not everyone was able to attend the class ceremony. Cadets currently studying at the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy were able to take the oath with members of the Class of 1965 present at an earlier date. Five members of the Women’s Soccer team and manager were hosting Stony Brook that afternoon but were met at midfield with a few ‘65 alumni, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. and Col. Donna Korycinski, who administered the oath.
The Class of 2015 cadets take the Oath of Affirmation during a ceremony Aug. 18 in Robinson Auditorium, officially committing themselves to the profession of arms.
The Honorable Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veteran Affairs, was guest speaker and joined fellow Class of 1965 alumni for the Class of 2015 Affirmation Ceremony at Robinson Auditorium Aug. 18.
Col. Donna Korycinski administered the oath to six Class of 2015 cadets during a pre-game ceremony at Clinton Field Aug. 18. The Women’s Soccer team went on to beat Stony Brook, 2-0.
At first, Class of 2015 Cadet Lara Wilson was disappointed not being able to attend with her class. Afterward she said having the ceremony with the friends she’s made since arriving to West Point on R-Day was unforgettable. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be with anyone else,” Wilson said. “Also, to have the rest of our team there to support us and watch the process made our affirmation ceremony even more special. As an athlete, we are put in companies together for summer training, and train all year in soccer, as well as school, together. These girls have been through everything with me from the start, and together we have made it through our first two years at the academy.”Wilson took the oath because, like many cadets, she feels duty-bound to serve her country.“In the end, that is what it’s about,” she said. “When I first arrived at the academy there were many doubts. I did not know much about the military and I wasn’t totally sure what being a ‘West Point cadet’ entailed. Now, after completing the first two years, I understand the Army and what an honor it is to be a part of the strongest Army in the world.” With classes starting the next morning there was little time to celebrate. In years past the class leadership would have to request special permission to commemorate the occasion at Benny Haven’s Lounge, the Cow Club.“We chose not to ask for that exception to policy to open the club because we didn’t want that to be the emphasis of what we’re doing,” Warren said. “It’s a big night for us because of the commitment we are making to the profession of arms.”