Exchange Weekend 2016 @ West Point
Coordinated with the cooperation of 26669 (IV) NCdt Anna Childerhose & 26659 OCdt (IV) Danielle Andela
During the weekend 22 – 24 Jan while the focus of many was on the visit to Kingston by West Point cadets there was a group of RMCC cadets (approx 100) heading South to the United States Military academy.
The plan was a cultural, friendship and educational weekend.
A major snowfall in the area during the majority of the weekend put a damper on some of the scheduled activities. However, as the reader will find out it didn’t cut into the value of the trip.
Click at the end of the article for more photos from the 2016 visit to West Point
The following testimonies describes the experiences of RMCC cadets from all four years.
In their own words:
I Year perspective: OCdt Johnston, J 27545 5 SQN; and NCdt Murray, H 27742 4 SQN.
II Year perspective: OCdt Cloutier, C 20752 3 SQN; OCdt Fryxell, T 27294 10 SQN; and OCdt Nettie, C 27383 12 SQN.
III Year perspective: OCdt Prutchick, J 27094 1 SQN; and OCdt Kiltz, C 27182 7 SQN.
IV Year perspective: OCdt Cho, J 26712 2 SQN and OCdt Gorman, A 26852 6 SQN
Plebe – First Year
The RMCC- West Point exchange was truly a privilege to attend. As a first year at the Royal Military College of Canada, I had the opportunity to travel to the United States Military Academy in New York for a few days. During this trip, my host (a plebe- a first year) was able to bring me to her classes that included a weapons class in the morning followed by “mil move”, physics and calculus. Attending the weapons class- a class in which different weapon systems are studied- and the “mil move” gym class was a unique learning experience, as those courses are not offered at RMCC. After classes, I received a tour of the campus from my host. The historical buildings and the view from the library were truly amazing as they proved how large West Point’s campus was, especially when compared to RMCC’s campus, which is smaller.
During free time, I was able to make new friends- friends with different experiences in their military careers- and we were able to share those differences with each other. We even attended a magic show with other RMCC students and their hosts.
A major difference that I noted that made for a very different atmosphere was that after the cadets’ orientation period/ basic (also known as “beast”), the cadets are required to switch companies and roommates in order to meet new people. This is different from the flight and squadron atmosphere at RMCC. Another major difference was the cadet ranking system that is that stays with the cadet throughout their time at West Point.
I really enjoyed my experience at West Point and look forward to future exchanges.
OCdt Johnston, J 27545 5 SQN
The weekend exchange at West Point proved to be a great period of camaraderie and cohesion between the Canadian and American Cadet Officer Corps. My host for the weekend was an upbeat and enthusiastic first year or “plebe” to quote the term, who proved quickly to be a kind and positive member of his squad and his platoon. During the school period, I was given the pleasure of attending three of his routine classes; a calculus class that would make most university students tremble in fear, an informative and combat-oriented military science course that gave both the American students and myself a detailed explanation for operating and clearing an M240 Brave machine gun, and finally a quite intriguing and compelling look at the War of American Independence is a military history class. After school, my host gave me a thorough tour of the facility including many of its monuments, all the while filling me in on interesting bits of school trivia. When that was finished, I was given the opportunity to try and run through the IOCT obstacle course at the school. This proved very demanding for myself, but nonetheless was an unforgettable experience. I was also taken to an interesting magic show, compliments of West Point. This trip introduced me to many friends, allies, and brothers-in-arms, some of whom I now keep in touch with on a routine basis. I think one of the biggest differences, and probably one of the greatest strengths of West Point, is its effective integration of practical combat knowledge and training into both the academic and recreational portions of USMA school life. It was a rewarding experience that I shall never forget.
NCdt Murray, H 27742 4 SQN
Yuk – Second Year
Avoir eu la chance d’aller passer 4 jours à West Point a été une opportunité en or. J’ai eu la chance d’être accueillie et hébergée par une élève officier de West Point qui, comme moi, est dans sa deuxième année au Collège militaire. Je l’ai accompagnée dans ses classes pour une journée complète. Étant une étudiante en Études françaises, j’ai trouvé très intéressant d’assister à une classe de physique, une de chimie, et une de chinois. C’était très différent de ce dont j’ai l’habitude dans mes cours, mais j’ai trouvé les professeurs très dynamique et intéressant. J’ai été surprise d’apprendre que, au contraire de RMC, la majorité des professeurs de West Point sont militaires. J’ai eu la chance d’accompagner une étudiante dans un labo de chimie où elle travaillait sur un projet pour un de ses cours : elle essaie de créer un vaporisateur qui pourrait tuer les œufs de vers qu’on retrouve dans la plupart des fertilisants dans les pays du tiers monde.
J’ai été un peu déçue d’apprendre que la partie de Basketball était annulée. Par contre, je n’ai pas été déçue bien longtemps. La colocataire de mon hôte nous a invités, mon hôte et moi, à aller rendre visite à ses commanditaires pour la fête de leur fille. Ce fut une merveilleuse soirée où j’ai pu en apprendre plus sur la culture militaire des États-Unis en parlant au père de la jeune fêté, un officier, tout en mangeant du gâteau d’anniversaire. Je me considère très chanceuse d’avoir eu le privilège de participer à cet échange. Ce fut pour moi une expérience unique qui, en plus de me faire connaître une culture différente, m’a permis de faire de très belles rencontres enrichissantes.
OCdt Cloutier, C 20752 3 SQN
I recently went on the trip to West Point. It was a great experience where I met some excellent people. I stayed with two first years; what they call “plebes”. As a second year I found it interesting to stay with them because plebes do not have a lot of freedom to do what they want. Most of the time we talked about the differences between RMC and West Point. The major difference I saw was the focus between military and academics. At West Point, military studies is critical, however at RMC military studies seem to be pushed aside for academic. Before going to West Point I believed that academics were not essential to create a good officer. However, my time at West Point has proven to me that academics are crucial to create a well-rounded officer that can analyze situations appropriately and efficiently. By talking to the plebes and the corporals (second years at West Point) it showed me that RMC is training officers to a higher standard and I feel that is important to a smaller military as Canada’s. Therefore, my time at West Point was a lot of fun but also very informative on RMC’s objectives in creating officers. This was the signal most important comparison I made while at West Point.
OCdt Fryxell, T 27294 10 SQN
The bus ride was un-eventful and the border presented no problems, but when we finally began climbing into the mountains of New York State, it became clear that the campus would be much more sprawling than we could have ever imagined—and it was. The arrival went as smoothly as any large event could have hoped for; with many of us carrying backpacks, duffle bags and garment bags all over the academy and up several flights of stairs. Once settled in, my host—a third year (cow) of Caucasian and Taiwanese decent from California took myself and another RMC cadet to the firstie bar. The bar is dedicated to the graduating class but it seemed as though cadets from all years enjoyed time there. The next day I attended two arts classes: Logic and Decision Making. Being an engineering student here at RMC, this was a much-welcomed change of pace and I was eager to discuss and listen to our American counterparts. On the whole, the school day was not much different from our own. That evening we went to Grant, an on campus restaurant to buy some food. There, myself and another RMC student were surprised that armed men with assault rifles slung across their chests were free to buy food and walk amongst the patrons, weapons and all. Saturday, instead of attending the much-anticipated Army Navy basketball game at Madison Square Gardens, the day was spent watching movies and talking about everyone’s shared love for the Harry Potter series. Overall, the trip was an excellent experience I am grateful for having been afforded.
OCdt Nettie, C 27383 12 SQN
Cow- Third Year
During my stay at USMA, I was hosted by a young, third year cadet from Thailand; however, his English abilities were not very well practiced, and I found myself being drawn to his room mate from West Philadelphia, born and raised. This cadet was a fourth year, and gave me a memorable tour of the immensely vast West Point campus. I believe that my experience with this particular tour was extremely valuable, both for my own knowledge and a sort of cultural awareness that I had not possessed as of previously. During my tour, I often found myself marveling at the established history and heritage of so many great structures and monuments, many of them dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. I recall coming to the realization that our nation, Canada, is so relatively young. While we uphold our own Stone Frigate, built in 1820 as the cornerstone of cultural and historical significance at the College, the United States Military Academy has buildings and monuments of a larger size established far before the foundation was even laid for the Stone Frigate. In any case, it was a truly awesome experience to be in the presence of such a well established institution, and I will definitely attempt to return in the future.
OCdt Prutchick, J 27094 1 SQN
Participating in the USMA exchange at West Point was a unique and valuable experience. I was paired with a “firstie” cadet, or a senior fourth year cadet who was rooming with a “cow,” or third year cadet. I attended physiology classes with the third year cadet, as she is taking a similar degree to mine here at RMC. In our free time we visited the firstie club, which is similar to our drinking mess, and their athletic facilities. Due to the heavy snowstorm we were unfortunately unable to watch the NCAA basketball game in New York City, however we did take advantage of the TV’s at the on-campus restaurant to watch part of the game. I met many new cadets and now have valuable new friendships! Major differences I noted were the structure; there are more guidelines and rules which the cadets must follow, especially in plebe (first) year. Also, the large-scale of the academy in comparison to RMCC as well was quite evident; their mess hall and athletic facilities accommodate over four times as many cadets at RMCC! I very much enjoyed broadening my perspective of how military academies worldwide are run. I learned more in terms of regulations, traditions, university spirit, academic and social facilities etc. I recently participated in a semester exchange overseas in Germany, and now I am able to compare and contrast the various universities and their positives and negatives. Thank you very much for this wonderful experience.
OCdt Kiltz, C 27182 7 SQN
Firstie –Fourth Year
The West Point exchange was particularly meaningful for me, as I had previously spent a semester on exchange at the United States Military Academy (USMA). I stayed with a Cow, the colloquialism for a third year cadet at USMA. I had actually met her during my semester abroad, first semester of third year. Needless to say I was received with the best hospitality West Point has to offer, and I enjoyed my weekend immensely.
By some stroke of serendipity, my host CDT Vinson (‘17) is a Kinesiology major, one of the subjects that my high school self had been interested in studying, before finally deciding on Computer Engineering. Among the interesting course material, I was also intrigued by the gait analysis machine used in a human performance lab. Cadets used it to record the time, stride length, stride count, velocity, acceleration, and many other factors of linear human movement. Non-engineering students at USMA are also required to take an engineering track, kind of like a minor, and my host’s was Cyber, so I also got to sit in on a Network Engineering and Management class. It was a cool opportunity to see their perspective on a course I had previously taken (EEE330). We finished the morning with PL300, the USMA equivalent of the RMC requisite PSE301. Once again, it was an insightful glimpse into the West Point take on subjects we study.
I spent most of my free time visiting friendships I had forged last year, both in barracks and at the Firstie Club watering hole. I could rarely walk from one place to another without running into an old friend! We also spent Saturday afternoon at Victor Crossman, the small ski hill adjacent to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS) on post.
Once again I was reminded of the nuances of USMA culture. I found it more competitive, structured, and unforgiving. For instance, cadets are typically required to give up their weekends to pay off 50 hours of marching up and down the courtyard with a rifle and in ceremonial dress, just for being late for one class. I also found the society more intricate and nuanced. The more euphemistic culture reflects even in small details of everyday language. For instance, I’ve never heard a USMA cadet say, “I’m trying to not…” as I typically hear from my friends in Canada. Instead, it is normal to hear someone use the more passive “I’m not trying to…” as a direct equivalent, even when the active intent is meant (“I’m not trying to make any mistakes on this assignment.” means “I’m trying to not make any mistakes on this assignment.”)
Despite differences in the details and specifics of cadet life at USMA and RMC, underneath it all there is a mentality that I think we all relate to. We both have jargon unique to the institution (separate from the rest of the military). We both understood the camaraderie and bonds created by shared hardships. We both experience the impact of great and not-so-great leadership, and the burden of being responsible for others as well. The specifics are different, but we share the MilCol/Academy spirit. After such a meaningful weekend it was with great sadness that I watched the iconic grey castle-like buildings disappear from view behind us as our bus wound up Washington Road on our way home.
OCdt Cho, J 26712 2 SQN
I was paired with a fourth year cadet when I arrived at West Point. Although he was my host, and I stayed in his room, he was a very busy cadet so I only saw him for a few hours in total. I didn’t know any other cadets in the hosting regiment, but I went with other cadets to attend their management classes. Thursday and Friday night were both spent at the Firstie drinking beer and building invaluable bonds between our two great nations. On Saturday, the basketball game we were supposed to spectate was cancelled. Instead, I attended the mandatory sports day which was also cancelled due to the horrific sight of snow. The lack of sports made us thirsty for some other activities, so I went with a couple of cadets who were hosting Canadians into town to get some drinks. Only fourth year cadets could go because of our extensive privileges. Saturday night was also a great time, as we were able to enjoy our last rounds of beers at the Firstie before leaving. Overall, it was a decent experience, which provided me with some new stories to tell.
OCdt Gorman, A 26852 6 SQN
More photos from the 2016 visit to West Point – HERE