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 company mates 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 candidates 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 Results 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
Branch Night Poem
Twas the night before branching, when all through the corps,
not a firstie was stirring, besides CDOs going door to door.
Their preferences were entered to DMI with care,
in hopes that big Army’s allocations be fair.
The First Class were nestled all snug in their racks,
except the engineering students with no time to relax.
the Supe with his bivvy, the Comm in her cot,
had just settled in, 4 stars, I have not.
When out on the Plain*, there arose such a clatter,
I sprung from the bed to see what was the matter,
away to the window I flew like a flash
moving so fast, I forgot my red sash.
The moon on the breast of the mighty green lawn,
gave light to the trees whose leaves were long gone,
When, what to my cadet eyes could not cope
but a humvee carrying a single yellow envelope.
With a little old driver, so crusty and quick,
I knew in a moment, it was DMI 6.
And there in the humvee there was not just one,
but a pile of envelopes, as big as the sun.
Engineers, finance, infantry, aviation,
cyber, MI, and transportation.
FA, Med Service, chem corps, AG,
ADA, Armor, signal and MP.
For three long years the Firsties sure tried,
they bled, they sweat, and even some cried.
There in the stack, futures are bestowed,
answering the question, how tomorrow will bode.
But of more than 1000, just 30 from all,
having earlier this week, from their TAC was a call.
Just straight from their mouth, no room to connive,
their branch allocations, are beyond their top five.
But alas tomorrow, no need to isolate,
for with their brothers in arms, instead they’ll celebrate.
‘Cause over the years, camaraderie was built,
bond unbelievable tight, not ever to wilt.
Through boxing, combatives, the IOCT.
through mil move, and all other classes of DPE,
and paper, TEES, and Academic rigor.
Accomplishing more, than most of us had figured.
There was beast, and buckner, and CLDT,
Physical, Academic, and military IADs.
Through thick and thin we went through it together,
through the rain snow, and all the bad weather.
With pride in my chest I return to my bed,
with images of tomorrow, aglow in my head.
Among my classmates, I will learn forthright,
Good luck branching to all, and to all, a good night.
—Cadet Aryne Riley ’17