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Class Notes

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Branch Night Class of 2017

41 Months Come Down to 1 Night

Branch Night electrifies First Class cadets like no other event, save for Graduation. “We are super excited, super pumped up,” said CDT Bobby Provine ’17 as he and his E-4 companymates entered Eisenhower Auditorium for the event. But once inside, the mood changed slightly to one of apprehension as the reality of learning their fate in the Army hit them. “My company is excited, but there are serious nervous undertones,” said CDT Alexa Davis ’17 of Company A-2. “Several have told me that their stomachs started churning as they sat down, waiting for the event to begin.” CDT Tyler Hohn ’17, Company Commander for Company D-3, said that “tension is running a little high” in his company right before the event. And CDT Richard Smith ’17, the 1SGT for Company E-1 called the waiting a “surreal moment.” “Everybody is biting at the bit to learn what branch insignia awaits them in their envelope,” Smith said. “We are super-anxious, but at the same time we are busting to celebrate with each other as all the work we’ve put in at West Point is finally going to be rewarded.”

On Branch Night, cadets learn in which of the Army’s 17 branches they will be serving for at least the next eight years. The buildup to this event is long and can be mentally taxing. For some, it unofficially begins before R-Day with Admissions officers and Directorate of Athletics representatives sending out literature to prospective candidate informing them of the Army’s “career fields.” Then, as soon as Cadet Basic Training commences, the Department of Military Instruction’s (DMI) Branch Education and Mentorship Program takes over. Through military science courses, summer training events (particularly Cadet Troop Leader Training), and the annual “Branch Week” displays, cadets learn about the various equipment and duties involved with each branch. As evidence of cadets actively engaging with the Branch Education and Mentorship Program, BG Diana Holland ’90, Commandant of Cadets, noted that 83 percent of the Class of 2017 changed one of their top three branch preferences during the past year. Addressing the overall intention of the program, COL Jonathan Neumann ’89, Director of DMI, said, “In the end, we try to get cadets to understand how their unique talents contribute to the needs of the branch as indicated by the branch commandants, so that when cadets submit their branch preferences, their number-one choice is one they see themselves fitting.” According to this year’s satisfaction rates, the Branch Education and Mentorship Program is meeting its goals: 78 percent of cadets in the Class of 2017 received their top branch choice and 97 percent received one of their top five choices.

But even though Branch Night was the culmination of the Branch Education and Mentorship Program (with posting and transition details to follow), the Class of 1967, the 50-Year Affiliation Class to 2017, made sure that cadets kept learning during the milestone event. One lesson that MG Mark Hamilton ’67, Branch Night guest speaker, tried to impart to cadets addressed the world they would soon be entering. “It is a world of joint forces,” Hamilton said, “working with other services, coalitions from other nations, and nongovernmental agencies.” He also reminded them that the branch they are entering would identify their expertise. “You have to be good at it,” he told the cadets. “Know what you bring to the team.” Finally, he passed on the wisdom of loving your classmates, a lesson that his classmate Dr. Tom Parr ’67 summed up by saying, “Class bonds are much tighter than branch bonds.” Commenting on all the hugging and high-fiving he was witnessing, Parr said, “Even though Branch Night signals the reality of their lives beyond West Point, the members of the Class of 2017 will be brothers and sisters in arms forever.”

Branch Allocation for the Class of 2017

AD - Air Defense Artillery
AR - Armor
AV - Aviation
EN - Engineering
FA - Field Artillery
IN - Infantry
AG - Adjutant General
CM - Chemical
CY - Cyber
FI - Finance
MI - Military Intelligence
MP - Military Police
MS - Medical Services
OD - Ordnance
QM - Quartermaster
SC - Signal Corps
TC -Transportation