|New cadets reflect during March BackBy Mike StrasserAssistant EditorNew Cadet Luke Jenkins, from River Falls, Wis., was feeling a little tired midway through the 12-mile March Back on Aug. 13.Understandable, considering the past few days as he and 1,170 other new cadets were nearing the end of Cadet Basic Training with the completion of the Steele Challenge and their final Army Physical Fitness Test.“We got up around 3 a.m. this morning and pushed off around 4:40 a.m.; we hit some good hills early in the day but I’m feeling good,” he said.With about six miles to go, Jenkins was looking forward to joining his new company at West Point. The day before he learned he was joining 4th Regiment’s Company D and met with his tactical officer, noncommissioned officer and some of the upperclass cadets assigned to that company.“I’m joining the Dukes, and everyone seemed awesome so I’m really excited to become a part of that academic company,” Jenkins said.He said he’ll reflect back on Cadet Basic Training someday and remember it as a rewarding challenge.“I got to experience a lot of things I’ve never done before,” he said. “I had never shot an assault rifle or a grenade launcher and learned so much about land navigation.”The most challenging aspect, he said, was maintaining the high level of discipline his cadre demanded from the new cadets.“It’s easy to get distracted at times,” he said. “Especially when you go from a garrison to a field environment, so maintaining the different expectations between the two I found to be challenging.“For me, what I found most rewarding was that development within our platoon and how we went from knowing absolutely nothing about each other to the personal relationship we’ve developed in just six weeks,” Jenkins said. “It’s pretty impressive.”Of course, those were CBT comrades, and now he’ll have to develop new relationships with a whole new company at the start of the academic year. “Well, we’re all in it together as the plebe class, and we’ll be taking the same classes and run into each other a lot,” Jenkins said. “It’ll be nice to see familiar faces.”New Cadet Shane Hearn, from Auburn, Maine, will be one of those familiar faces as both new cadets are members of the Army Ice Hockey team.“Personally, I’m looking forward to playing again,” Hearn said. “There are 14 hockey players in our company looking forward to getting on the ice and start playing.” He said that during CBT they were able to get to Tate Rink occasionally to skate. Although Hearn said his feet aren’t quite used to all the rucking, they’ll be ready for the rink after March Back.Hearn said the summer training was a long learning process.“I had no military background and I just learned so much in the past six weeks,” Hearn said. “At times I struggled with the military training—and they were definitely eye-opening—but the physical aspects weren’t as challenging for me.”On Reception Day each new cadet received a CBT Knowledge Book containing every piece of information they would be required to know either verbatim or conversationally. Hearn found that to be particularly challenging to absorb.“Every week there were like 30 pieces of knowledge we needed to know,” Hearn said. “Everything was in that book and you had to be able to pass it off to the cadre every week. That was tough.”But with every challenge presented to the new cadets came the reward of knowing they could endure it.“Like the Steele Challenge, when you’re swimming across the lake with your squad. You finish it and feel like a hundred bucks because you completed such a huge event,” Hearn said.Only $100?“That’s a lot in the military,” he joked. “But you feel so accomplished having no prior experience and then to be able to go on the range and fire your weapon accurately and then carry that raft to the finish line. You feel accomplished.”Before coming to West Point, Hearn was an accomplished procrastinator, but that has already changed for him.“I didn’t have things laid out where I needed to get things done at certain times, but then I come here everything has to be done on time; you have to fall in line everywhere and you can’t just do what you want,” Hearn said. “I learned a lot about myself in that way.”New Cadet Anastasia Morin also learned about her own personality from the way she interacted with squad mates and roommates.“This was the hardest but most rewarding experience of my life, so far,” Morin, a Belleville, Mich., native, said. “I dug deep and the people around me showed me things about myself I never realized. I’m glad I was able to learn a lot about myself.Morin is looking forward to the academic year and studying languages again. She’s already fairly proficient in Russian and French and is interested in picking up Persian Farsi.“I love languages and learning about the different cultures in the world,” she said. “I love meeting new people from various backgrounds and learning all about them.”When the class voted on their class motto, “With Honor We Lead,” she was excited about the consensus choice.“That’s the one I voted for, and I was hoping the motto would have something to do with honor,” she said. “That’s one of the main reasons I came to West Point and I was really excited about the environment here because of the honor code cadets follow. I hope that throughout West Point and in my future I can lead with honor.”New Cadet Matthew Pope, from Nashville, N.C., said the training intensified that last week of CBT and the March Back was the final hurdle for the Class of 2016.“The Steele Challenge was probably the hardest part of CBT, but very rewarding to be able to work with my squad and overcoming each site,” Pope said. “The memorial at the end for 1st Lt. Tim Steele reminded me of why I wanted to serve my country. Heroes like him inspire me to continue on at West Point.”Like Morin, the summer training exposed Pope to ways he could better himself, not just from physical and military training, but from the overall experience CBT provides.“I learned to, as a leader, express myself more and take charge in certain situations,” Pope said. “Sometime I’d want to sit back and be told what to do, but as they develop you as a leader here they want you to grab hold and take charge at times.”In addition to academic pursuits, new cadets will be able explore the variety of extracurricular activities available during Club Night at Eisenhower Hall Aug. 20.“I’m looking at the Model United Nations team and the Hunting and Fishing Club,” Pope said. “I was also thinking about snowboarding as well.”
New Cadet Shane Hearn
New Cadet Luke Jenkins
New Cadet Matthew Pope
The March Back signified the final hurdle for more than 1,100 new cadets in the Class of 2016 before they can claim to have completed Cadet Basic Training. the 12-mile ruck march followed other milestone events during summer training like the Steele Challenge and the final Army Physical Fitness Test.
Photos by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO