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Old Grads March Back with New Cadets

After six grueling weeks, Cadet Basic Training (CBT) has ended. Despite the intensive training—rappelling a 75-foot rock face, enduring the House of Tears, surviving the new five-day field training exercise (during which it rained for two days straight), and more—new cadets reported “loving” Beast Barracks. They learned a number of practical skills in CBT for their future careers as second lieutenants, but, more than that, they learned a lot about themselves. “I’m tougher now,” said New Cadet Will Morningstar ’20, and New Cadet Chris Robertello ’20 reported experiencing “a transformation in attitude.” New Cadet Zach Aloma said that CBT plunged him into the unknown and made him realize that he could adapt to anything. He also learned the value of teamwork. “I never would have gotten through the battle drills of the FTX without my squadmates,” said Aloma. Perhaps New Cadet Kataliya Quinlan ’20 said it best: “I learned that I could push through more than I thought I could this summer and breach walls that I didn’t think I could break.” Quinlan needed to remember this lesson to accomplish CBT’s 12-plus-mile capstone mission, the March Back from Camp Buckner to Washington Hall. Supporting her and her fellow 1,275 new cadets from the Class of 2020 along the way were 316 Old Grads from 40 West Point classes spanning 69 years of the Long Gray Line, the largest number of graduate participants in the March Back’s 17-year history. This total included 119 members, another record number, from the Class of 1970, the 50-Year Affiliation Class for 2020. “Having the Old Grads march with us was awesome,” said Quinlan. “Seeing them do it really motivated me and made all the new cadets think, ‘If they can do it, so can we.’”

March Back Class of 2020 Old Grads group As it turns out, motivation cuts both ways. COL (R) Roger Conover ’48, who has participated in 15 of the 17 March Backs and has decided to “pass the torch” as the oldest marcher after this year’s event, said that the energy he got from new cadets kept him going all these years. “I am going to miss the wonderful experience of talking to these young people and soaking up their tremendous enthusiasm for the life that they are starting,” Conover said. LTC (R) Bill Trivette ’70 also acknowledged the enthusiasm of the new cadets. “The Class of 2020 looks like a great class, they have a great attitude, and they are doing a great job.”

New cadets also saw a practical side to marching with Old Grads. Robertello said that new cadets asked the Old Grads lots of questions about their experiences as cadets. “We wanted them to give us a heads-up about what kind of stuff is coming our way during Re-orgy Week,” said New Aloma. 2LT Logan Neal ’15, who graduated three months ago but came back to complete the March Back with his brother, a new cadet in the Class of 2020, said, “A lot of the new cadets that I spoke to while marching wanted to know what the first 24 hours with their new academic company would be like, a period of Re-orgy Week typically known as ‘The Guantlet.’”

March Back, as is turns out, was a positive experience for both new cadets and Old Grads. “As one gets older, a grad recognizes the tremendous importance of the whole concept of the Long Gray Line,” said Conover. “In my view, there is no greater opportunity than the March Back to give the new cadets some sense of what this tradition means and to start them thinking about being part of it.” His wish was already having an impact among the new cadets. “Having the Old Grads march with us showed me the unity between West Pointers,” said Morningstar. “Despite the time gap between our classes, we are still one Long Gray Line.”   View USMA Photos on Flickr