An enthusiastic band of Classmates reported to Camp Buckner on 26 July for the presentation of the 2015 Class Flag by our President, Clair Gill, and Bud Bucha. For several of them, this was the first time at Camp Buckner in 50 years! The band of brothers, along with several wives, were Clair Gill, Bud Bucha, Rollie Stichweh, Fred Smith, Gene Manghi, Emery and Eleanora Chase, Paul and Sabine Schultz, Mike and Cathy Applin with granddaughters Julia and Claire, Russ and Maryann Campbell, and Bob and Mary Frank.
The presentation was part of the awards ceremony signaling the end of Yearling CFT (Cadet Field Training), which is a truncated but intense version of our own experience there a mere fifty years ago. This was our opportunity to present the Class with their very own flag, emblazoned with their class crest that includes their motto, “For Those We Lead.” Our Class was privileged to provide funding and moral support. Dignitaries in attendance included LTG Dave Huntoon, USMA Superintendent; the Dean of the Academic Board; heads of various Departments (including COL Greg Daniels, Master of the Sword); Christine Runkle, mother of LT John Runkle ’09 (Lt. Runkle ’09 was killed in Afghanistan in 2011). The Academy dedicated CFT in his honor by naming the cadre and the yearlings Task Force Runkle); two Rangers from WWII; a descendant of LTG Simon Bolivar Buckner, KIA in Okinawa in WWII; as well as our Class contingent. The threat of rain forced the ceremony inside, to the theater, instead of on the tennis courts. [Shown here is Clair Gill with the assistance of Buddy Bucha, passing the 2015 Class Colors to their Class President, Cadet Will Goodwin (the tall cadet at the far right). Partially shown in the foreground is the Affiliation Banner which now has the 2015 Class Crest on the Right and our Class Crest on the left.]
A big highlight of the event was Buddy Bucha’s address to the Class. He did a masterful job of weaving flashbacks from his Buckner and combat experiences into his talk as he laid down the imperative for these young leaders to eschew fame and fortune for the sacred privilege of leading US Soldiers. It was clear from the applause that the cadets (and the Academy staff) got the message. Under the new leader development system, the Yearlings were to be promoted to the cadet NCO ranks at the end of the ceremony, and Bud addressed the significance of that. He stated that “this was the most important rank in the Army, the backbone.” Bud also opined that “neither riches nor rewards” were the important measures of success in life. The most precious gift was to be given the honor to lead and that the highest accolade would come from one’s classmates when, at the end, they would be the ones to say “Well done!” Bud’s message was powerful and his impact was tangible.
He was followed by Command Sergeant Major Burnett, CSM of USCC, who reinforced the message of leadership and an NCO’s responsibility. CSM Burnett encouraged the members of the Class of 2015 to take the Plebes under their wings, to guide them, to hold them to standards, and to imbue them with the Army’s values and West Point’s values. Together, these two presentations impressed on the Yearlings the importance of their responsibilities both in the coming academic year and for years to come.