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Branch Night for the Class of 2018

Categories: Grad News, 50-Year Affiliation Program, Cadet News
Class Years: ,

“Open your envelopes!”

The calendar shows that it is a week from Thanksgiving, but Branch Night for the Class of 2018, held on Wednesday evening in Eisenhower Hall, rather had the vibe of Christmas. Approximately 1,000 firsties nervously packed the lower auditorium by cadet company, hoping that the envelopes they were about to receive from their “Old St. TAC” contained the branch insignia they had placed on their wish list.

“Everyone in E-4 is anxious,” said CDT Jack Wedholm ’18 of Company E-4. “Personally, I can’t wait.”

Branch Night is the culmination of the Department of Military Instruction’s Branch Education and Mentorship Program (E&M). For the last 41 months, since they entered West Point as plebes, the members of the Class of 2018 have been learning about the duties and equipment associated with each of the Army’s 17 branches. Through military science courses, summer training events (particularly Cadet Troop Leader Training), panel discussions, and the annual “Branch Week” displays, E&M tries to get cadets to understand how their unique talents can contribute to the needs of a particular branch, as outlined by the branch commandants. About a month ago, the firsties submitted their branch preferences, with the idea being that their number-one choice is the one they best see themselves fitting.

Class of 2018 Branch Night

COL (R) Dale Hansen ’68, a member of the 50-Year Affiliation Program for the Class of 2018 who was on hand for Branch Night, said, “Cadets today have a better understanding of each of the branches and hence make better informed choices than we did.” Branch selection for the Class of 1968 was based strictly on order of merit, and forced quick choice adjustments if the branch a cadet sought was filled prior to his opportunity to select. “It created a great deal of angst in many of my classmates,” said David Martin ’68, another 50-Year affiliate present. “The last 100-plus cadets were swept into Infantry, and the Vietnam War was in full swing back then, which no doubt had something to do with branch quotas and branch choices.”

Despite the differences in the branch selection process between the two classes, the one thing that hasn’t changed, according to Branch Night keynote speaker, LTG (R) Larry Jordan ’68, is the power of one’s branch assignment to shape a graduate’s career and, potentially, life. “Your branch will be your professional home and define your area of expertise,” Jordan told the members of the Class of 2018. “It will be a source of pride, camaraderie, and spirit.” But, while not diminishing the anticipation, excitement and thrill of learning their branch assignments, Jordan also told the firsties that their bonds as a class will be more important than any branch designation. “Throughout the years, you will find that classmates will be there to support you, perhaps when others may be unwilling or uninterested.”

Those class bonds were on display as the members of the Class of 2018 tore open their envelopes and immediately started hugging and high-fiving each other, sharing this milestone moment with those who have been with them every step of the way through all the highs and lows of every West Point experience during the past four years. “My family and classmates have shaped my entire experience at West Point,” said CDT Amber Clay ’18 of Company B-3. “They are a direct reflection of me making it this far and there is no one else I would rather share this news with than them!”

The cadets were especially ecstatic this year, as 97 percent of them received one of their top five branch preferences. Something indeed to be thankful for in this week leading up to Thanksgiving.

Branch Night Class of 2018 Results Graph

Branch Allocation for the Class of 2018

(NOTE: 70 percent of the Class of 2018 branched combat arms [77 percent of males and 41 percent of females].)

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

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