Class of 2016 Crest unveiling to highlight Plebe-Parent Weekend
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
The Class of 2016—having calibrated themselves to the rigors of West Point over their first several months here—is taking charge of the academy.
At least for one weekend.
Plebe-Parent Weekend, scheduled March 8-10, is a time when cadets show their families the academic, physical and military progress they’ve made at the U.S. Military Academy.
It’s a milestone event for the class, considering there are no upperclass cadets to contend with, but more so for the leadership opportunities.
“This gives plebes a chance to take on more important leadership roles, being the platoon leaders, company commander, all the way up to regimental staff,” Class of 2016 Cadet E.J. Coleman, class president, said. “It gives us all a chance to try out different forms of leadership and see what works and what doesn’t work.”
Debra Dalton knows how special the weekend is for families, not just because of her job but as mother to a West Point graduate. The West Point Parents Club director in the Office of Admissions said it’s the one time when parents can get a real sense of what life is like for their cadets at the academy.
“We open all the doors and let the parents have a peek at what goes on at the academy,” Dalton said.
For many it is the first time back since Acceptance Day.
“It’s sometimes hard for families to make the trek to West Point so this gives them a reason to want to come and see more of what the academy is offering their sons and daughters,” Dalton said.
The changes they’ve seen in cadets since A-Day gets new perspective within the environment that fostered those changes.
“From A-Day until Plebe-Parent Weekend, there is going to be huge changes in the cadets,” Dalton said. “Parents will hopefully see how their cadets have developed some confidence in their surroundings and a certain comfort level that parents can pick up on.”
Coleman said a typical visit home to Alexandria, Va., often leads to a thousand questions about West Point. Now they get to find the answers for themselves, he said.
“It’s a great experience for plebes to showcase their abilities here and what they’ve learned to our family and friends,” Coleman said.
Families can tour the academic buildings with instructors and professors available to explain curriculum. Tactical officers and noncommissioned officers will also discuss the chain of command and how TACs function with the Corps of Cadets. An open house at the Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center will offer demonstrations of the plebe courses like boxing and combatives. People may have heard the grueling stories about the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, but it’s entirely different to see the course firsthand.
“That was a must-see tour for me last year,” Dalton said. “I would recommend going to Arvin Gym and see those demonstrations because it’s truly amazing what the Department of Physical Education does.”
Coleman is particularly interested in showing his family, especially his younger brother, what goes on at Arvin.
“I talk about that nonstop when I’m home. I really like boxing and did well in that, but not so well in military movement,” Coleman said.
Dalton said the Cadet Uniform Factory is a fascinating place to visit.
“We know that cadets wear some type of uniform every day and most of what they wear is made at the Cadet Uniform Factory,” Dalton said. “You can actually watch the people who make the braid on their dress uniforms and see them sewing it onto the sleeve. It’s meticulous work and not something you will see in a store off the rack. They take a lot of pride and put a lot of effort into making cadet uniforms.”
There are options to choose from, and Dalton said the schedule offers enough leeway to pick out preferences.
“Not everybody is going to want to see the uniform factory but they may have interest in the architecture of the Cadet Mess,” Dalton said. “So we’ll have a little walk through there to point out some of the historical features. Sherman Fleek, the USMA historian, helps out with that.”
Dalton introduced last year’s group of visitors to a presentation from Dr. Elizabeth Samet, professor in the Department of English. Having regretted not recording that speech at Eisenhower Hall Theatre, she’ll have another opportunity Friday. Samet is taking time off her sabbatical to speak on the topic “A Desert Island State of Mind.”
“Dr. Samet is an award-winning professor and published author and brings a unique perspective to the academy,” Dalton said. “We sometimes hear we about becoming so ingrained in the military structure and discipline and she provides a different perspective in the creative way she brings English and literature to the cadets.”
After hearing Samet’s presentation one year Dalton was inspired to read the autobiography of Gen. Grant, something she wouldn’t have considered doing without the professor’s encouragement to explore different facets of learning.
“I think it’s important for parents to understand it’s not just about the military piece at the academy,” Dalton said. “There are these other enriching experiences that the cadets do have and Dr. Samet certainly brings that opportunity through her teachings.”
The Class of 2016 will demonstrate drill and ceremony skills with a short Review along the apron in front of Washington Hall.
“Cadets take a lot of pride in that, and I think they stand a little straighter and taller when they’re out there on their own in front of their families,” Dalton said.
“The Review is a showcase of the discipline we’ve learned, the attention to detail and our transformation into becoming Soldiers and leaders,” Coleman said.
That evening, cadets will escort their guests to a formal banquet where social etiquette is required.
With the help of some upperclass cadets, tactical officers and noncommissioned officers, members of the Class of 2016 practiced drill and ceremony Tuesday in preparation for the cadet review Saturday during Plebe-Parent Weekend. Class of 2016 Cadet E.J. Coleman said Plebe-Parent Weekend is a chance to show their families how much they’ve learned so far at the academy and the type of leaders they’re becoming. It’s also a culminating event for the class that is nearing the end of its first academic year. “I’m really proud of our class for coming this far and we’ve worked really hard,” Coleman said. For the first time at Plebe-Parent Weekend, the class crest will be unveiled at the banquet Saturday. Class of 2016 Cadet Nicholas Greene, the ring and crest committee chairman, will explain the symbolism of the crest at the formal dinner inside Washington Hall.
The apron in front of Washington Hall got a little crowded March 5 as cadets practiced for the upcoming review for Plebe-Parent Weekend, March 8-10.
Class of 2016 Plebe-Parent Weekend Photo Gallery
Class of 2016 cadets had some help from the upperclass cadets during practice but the plebes will be on their own March 8-10 while hosting their families and guests during Plebe-Parent Weekend.
“The cadet hostess (Sharyn Amoroso) has instructed them on how to introduce their parents to the chain of command and how to go through a receiving line,” Dalton said. “That’s part of the social experience of Plebe-Parent Weekend. There are so many things when they left home that their parents didn’t realize cadets would acquire in this short time.”
Coleman said it’s been daunting at times, all the coordination, planning and timing involved to create Plebe-Parent Weekend.
“But it’s a good learning experience, because you rarely get to see things from that perspective,” he said.
For the first time in the history of Plebe-Parent Weekend, the class crest will be unveiled at the banquet. Class of 2016 Cadet Nicholas Greene, the ring and crest committee chairman, will take the podium at the Cadet Mess to talk about the development of the class crest.
“I think we went through nine different versions of it, critiquing every little detail,” Greene said. “What we’ve done with the crest is something that hasn’t been seen in 30 years. It’s very unique but it still maintains those traditional elements found on each crest.”
The early unveiling meant shorter deadlines but Greene is confident the class will be pleased with the crest. “I think it really represents what our class is and what our class is going to be,” Greene said.
Greene’s family visited him one weekend when he attended the Preparatory School next to the academy. This is much different, he said, given the amount of experience he’s gained since then.
“This weekend is dedicated to the parents and they get to go through our life here and see everything,” Greene said. “For me, eating at the mess hall is nothing special anymore, but my mom is excited to go eat there. So it kind of opens their eyes to what I go through every day.”
Along with his parents and grandparents, the weekend will hopefully inspire his 10-year-old sister too.
“She’s really smart and likes learning new things, so I think just pointing out all the history that happened here will be fun,” Greene said. “I’m excited to show her what her brother has been going through here.”