The R-Day Experience
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 3, 2013) — Talk about equal opportunity. Reception Day is largely seen from the new cadets perspective as they shed the vestige of their former selves—be it student or Soldier—for the initial transformation into becoming U.S. Military Academy cadets and Army officers.
However, R-Day is also about the upperclass cadets—the cadre members who train for, plan and execute one of the academy’s largest, logistically-challenging events.
One of those challenges is timing. Consider this, when the new cadets enter Eisenhower Hall Theatre with their family members, a four-minute brief by an officer is followed by two minutes from a cadet who then—all of a sudden—notifies the audience they have 90 seconds to say their goodbyes. The cadets estimate a five-minute exit time with four minutes allotted to label baggage with tags and then load new cadets onto the bus. If they do their jobs well, the entire process would take no more than 23 minutes and 30 seconds with a five-minute pause with each new group ... over and over again until nearly 1,200 new cadets get through this station.
From six in the morning until six that evening, the cadre made sure each new cadet was accounted for, clothed, hydrated and fed, and well under way to learning what it means to be at West Point. New cadets were instructed by cadre and through the CBT Handbook on history, tradition, mottos, ranks and more. They learned enough about drill and ceremony to confidently march onto the Plain and conduct the oath ceremony, officially ending the first day at the academy.
Class of 2015 Cadet Cody Pigford is a squad leader in Company G, 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad, but during R-Day he was on transportation detail, making sure new cadets exiting Eisenhower Hall got onto the buses which would take them to Thayer Hall for inprocessing. After two hours of non-stop action, they were five minutes ahead of schedule and Pigford had a moment to talk.
“I think timing is almost 90 percent of R-Day. We have a huge time table schedule that we’re trying to make,” he said. “It’s actually surprising that we’re ahead right now because things get pushed unexpectedly and you can’t always plan for everything that happens.”
A few minutes ahead or a few minutes behind was expected, he said, as long as the new cadets complete all the R-Day requirements. Pigford was looking six hours ahead when he would get to meet the 10 new cadets in his squad for the first time.
“The Leader Training Program was very good and gave us a lot of chances to train in small units,” he said. “The past two weeks have really been building us up … actually the past two years. I feel ready.”
Class of 2015 Cadet Kaiwen Lin makes introductions during an icebreaker April 24 at the Thayer Award Room for those participating in the Foreign Academy Exchange Program.
On the 40th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, nearly 1,200 new cadets from the Class of 2017 take the oath of allegiance on The Plain from the Commandant of Cadets, Brig. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, July 1 during Reception Day. With the initial transformation from civilians to West Point cadets, they now enter Cadet Basic Training for the next six weeks.
Before R-Day, Brig. Gen. Richard Clarke, the commandant of cadets, reminded the cadre that the sum of R-Day is really just 12 hours. He said this cadre was ready to execute a successful R-Day, but they couldn’t ease up afterward because it’s more than just one day.
“R-Day is that big head-first jump in the pool that lets the new cadets know what they’re in for now,” Pigford said. “After the shock and awe of R-Day it gets their minds ready because it’s not going to be a fun six weeks of CBT.”
Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Sears is taking charge of 1st Platoon’s 3rd Squad in Co. H.
“I see this as an amazing opportunity to share some of the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained over the past two years at the academy with some of its newest members,” Sears said. “I think it’s a great chance just to work on my own leadership style because at the end of the day we’re all here toward becoming officers in the Army.”
Sears said it will be as much a learning experience for him as it will be for the new cadets.
“This will be the best experience, I think, so far in my career to take charge of people and get to know them while learning what works best for the squad and for the individuals—and what doesn’t work,” Sears said. “It’ll be a great three weeks for me. I’m going to learn a lot and teach a lot.”
At the end of those three weeks, the cadet cadre will relinquish command to a new group of cadets who will lead the new cadets through the completion of CBT, culminating with the March Back.