By Lindy Blackburn ‘69
Dear Fellow Graduates
I recently attended the Association of Graduates Alumni Leaders Conference and want to update you on some of what I experienced there. First of all I want to thank the Class of 1967 for their sponsorship of the event! The event was well run, provided lots of very useful information and was very worthwhile.
There were many highlights during the three days, not all of them part of the conference. The absolute best presentations were talks by the newly designated Cadet First Captain and Cadet Brigade Command Sergeant Major. Both Cadets discussed the recently completed summer training and in their words and in their body language they communicated their readiness to become Second Lieutenants in our Army; in less than a year. The communication of that part of their “West Point Experience” clearly demonstrated that they are taking their future charge seriously and are ready for that challenge. It also very clearly says that the focus of their training at the Academy has been on making them officers in the Army.
Staying with the cadet theme; all cadets that I talked to reflected an intellect, enthusiasm and desire that made an old grad feel good, and woefully inadequate. Some very positive leadership changes have been made that make a lot of sense– Yearlings are now corporals (team leaders) with training responsibilities for Plebes. It gives Yearlings something substantial and important to do and inculcates them into the chain of command. I’m sure that change has caused a very positive attitude adjustment among Yearlings.
Another positive training change is the expansion of summer opportunities away from West Point. From Army training courses like Airborne, Air Assault and a myriad of others to internships and other Army enrichment experiences cadets have a wide range of options from which to choose. Given that range of opportunities, there should be something for everyone. Hopefully those
expanded options encourage cadets to find some experience/school/internship in which they are interested and then work hard to be selected for that opportunity.
The last cadet theme came from the Superintendent’s presentation. He stressed how the cadets were not only given leadership opportunities but the responsibility for proper execution of whatever endeavor they are asked to lead. As an example he showed some training footage from recently completed beast barracks. The event was an infantry fire team live fire assault of an objective. The fire team, all plebes, was trained and led by their Cow squad leader.
Another nuance of the leadership came early Saturday morning – the day of The Acceptance Day Review. I came on post early to stroll around Trophy Point and was intrigued to find the Corps leadership rehearsing their roles in the Review – at 6:30 in the morning. It looked to be down to squad leader, right guide level. It was not apparent to the casual observer that there were any Tactical or other Officers present. So, the Cadet chain of command was doing what they had been asked to do – rehearse for and execute the Acceptance Review.
The Commandant’s presentation was informative. BG Ted Martin’s, newly arrived from Ft Benning where he was Commandant of the Armor School, presentation was about his first impressions of the Academy and the Corps. First on his list of things to fix is the quality of food in the mess hall and trend back toward company tables. His concern is
his ability to monitor the variety and quality of the food, focused on serving more healthy meals. Apparently, there is only one “Corps Meal” a week – Thursday evening - and at that meal cadets sit with their friends and not on company tables. My guess is that he will have support from the Corps on the first and not so much on the second.
The Superintendent LTG David Huntoon highlighted his concern about the condition of the barracks. He has money in the budget starting in October both for renovation of the current barracks and the construction of a new barracks. He was also very honest about the impending overall cuts to the military budget and his role in managing that demise as efficiently and effectively as possible. Some facts about cuts – a reduction in 71 civilian faculty positions over the next 12 months; a roll down of military grade levels while retaining 100% of the military strength (MAJs where there were LTCs, etc); more to come on that I am sure. As an aside we have asked that LTG Huntoon join us for Founder’s Day.
Bob McClure, ’76, President and CEO of the AOG spoke about the AOG’s ongoing $350 million capital campaign. It is off to a good start with $150 million or about 43% already pledged with a plan to go public when they reach the 60% level. All gifts to West Point count for that campaign so if you give to the Soccer Team or a club, those contributions will be counted in the total. The AOG has implemented some cost cutting measures of their own. The Final Issue of the Assembly has been mailed to subscribers and will be replaced by the West Point magazine which will be mailed to all graduates at no cost. Class notes will be on-line starting in October. They are sorting through the privacy issues and it appears now that access will be password protected to allow more personal notes and pictures to be included. I got the impression that class notes are still in beta test so more to come on that for sure. The Registrar of Graduates will be published every five years and Taps will be published periodically – they were saying bi-monthly but I got the impression the frequency was still being discussed.
Construction of the Prep School campus is just about complete – near the ski slope – and is an impressive addition. Post 9/11 security is apparent at all of the gates – contract civilians instead of MPs – but limits the openness of the post as I knew it. It appears that there are more “guided tours” for tourists with fewer families just
popping in for a Saturday day trip, but it is what it is.
Lastly, the Acceptance Day Review is now held on a Saturday Morning. It has become much more than one of the last required hazes before the upper classes leaves for the Labor Day weekend. First off, it is in the middle of August and that reflects the changes to get the first semester completed before Christmas Leave. It still marks the end of Reorganization Week but it is now family event and for many families the first time that they see their cadet since their “good-byes” on Reception Day. It appeared that the plebes got the rest of the weekend off with many Parents Clubs hosting outings and other events. “New cadet” families were out in force with signs like “We love you #84”, girlfriends and other relatives. The lead up to the review was more akin to an ESPN Saturday morning campus visit rather than a wait for the metaphoric march into adulthood they were about to witness. Using the maps of the unit locations they had been given families oriented themselves, chatted and readied their cell phone cameras and signs for the “big event”.
Everything changed with Adjutants Call as the Corps marching through the Sally Ports onto the Plain. All were struck mute by the majesty of the scene if not the seriousness of the event. Signs remained as seat cushions and families actually listened to the announcer, stood and removed their hats when asked, and strained to see find their loved one. They proudly pointed out their sons and daughters when they identified them and some called out their names – to soon realize that there would be no acknowledgement of those well-meant greetings. Mostly, however, as generations of parents have done before them these proud parents “got” the importance of the event and rightly felt parental pride for what their son or daughter had visibly achieved to this point with just an inkling of what remained for them to achieve in the future.
West Point remains what it has always been – an opportunity for over achieving young men and women to get a free education in exchange for service to country, a showcase for one of our nations historical treasures, and, most importantly, an institution that provides leaders of character for our Army and for our Nation.
Army vs. Air Force Game
Some of you may have missed the cutoff date for buying Army-Air Force football tickets. FOR SHAME....But, you may be in luck. A number of ticket holders have contacted us telling us that their commitments have changed, and they find themselves with un-needed tickets.
For those of you that are in need of A-AFA football tickets, AND those of you needing to SELL tickets, contact:
He'll coordinate & put you in touch with each other. Also, as a reminder: If you want to attend the A-AFA Tailgate gala event AND want to ensure you get food, please go to our website, & make reservations BEFORE October 28th.
WPSD Quarterly Dinner
The Denver WPS is co-hosting a quarterly meeting with the Pikes Peak Society, which will feature MAJ Mark McClellan, USMA's Southwest Region Admissions Commander. MAJ McClellan will brief alumni and friends of West Point about current admissions policies and procedures. The meeting is scheduled for 1900 hours on Thursday, 3 November. The location is the Fairfield Inn at 15275 Struthers Road in Colorado Springs, just off of I-25 between USAFA and Monument (I-25 to exit 158, go east on Baptist Road and then first right on Struthers Road. Hotel is on the left). Come and learn what it takes to get into our academy today and help spread the West Point message to prospective candidates.
Army vs. Navy WARNO
The seemingly annual hosting of the Army Navy game by the WPSD will occur this year on December 10th at 1230 hrs.
Location will again be at the Heather Ridge Country Club at 13521 E. Illiff Ave, Aurora, CO.
Meals and prices will be published near October 28th on the Society Website (denverwestpointer.org ) On-line reservations and secure payment via credit card will be available on the website until December 5, 1600., Alternatively, Cash (preferred) or personal check will be accepted at the door. Reservations will NOT be accepted after December 5, 1600 hrs. The management has assured us that given the advance orders, all meals will be served during half-time.
If you fail to make reservations by the 5th of December, come anyway & order from a separate menu on game-day.
With your early commitment and vociferous support during the game, we fully expect the Navy will be afforded the opportunity to host in 2012.
This year, an “indoor tailgate” will be held. The price will be all inclusive for a Football Fanfare Buffet, served from the end of the first quarter to the end of the third quarter. Check on-line to see the final flyer AND to use the link for a secure on-line credit card payment and reservations. The on-line cost will be a savings from the “at the door” pricing, which can be made by cash or check. On-line payment will be available until Dec 5th. a separate “kiddies menu” will be available for the young-uns.
Bookmark our website and Check it out monthly for our Hail and Farewell listings. See who's moved (and where to) and who in your class has moved here. We always include an announcement for any members that we need to play taps for. Fortunately, we've had none this quarter! We've also got a number of new blogs, including digital copies of this and previous newsletters. One blog discusses what goes on at each Board Meeting. Go to our homepage to click on links to the BLOGS. If anyone has suggestions on possible inclusions to either the website or the blogs, please contact Dave Jackson. Guest bloggers are welcome (on relevant subject matter).
Veteran’s Day Breakfast
On November 11, 2011, Veterans Green Jobs will host its 2nd annual Veterans Day Breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at the Denver Police Protective Association, 2105 Decatur St., in Denver. The keynote speaker will be James F. Yacone, a West Point graduate ‘87, decorated Army veteran and special agent in charge of the FBI’s Denver Division. We anticipate more than 350 guests in attendance, including elected officials, military honorees, veterans and active servicemen and women, local luminaries, and event sponsors. Sponsorships, featuring tables of 8, range from $350 to $10,000. Individual tickets are $35 each. For information, contact Leigha at 720-236-1300, X5506.
Colorado Parent’s Club
Under the inspired leadership of Co-Presidents Kerry and Kurt Bleikamp (Kyle ’13) the Parents’ Club enjoyed record attendance at its Send Off for the Class of 2015 at Bowles Community Church in Littleton in June. A total of 27 new families joined the club, representing nearly all of Colorado’s 2015 cadets.
Summer events included an Acceptance Day Picnic back at USMA hosted by Bob and Gayle Bucknam (Robert ’10 & Blake ‘14) the Club’s incoming Co-Presidents for next year and a Summer Social hosted by Tom and Cindy Hodel (Marc ‘10) in Lakewood. September saw the Club gather in Colorado Springs for its annual Boodle Bash, with dozens of resulting packages sent to cadets and young lieutenants.
Next up is the Surviving Graduation Meeting on October 22nd, which is being hosted by three “ole grad” moms from the Class of 2011. On November 5th the Parents’ Club is adding 200+ Army supporters to the cheering section at the Air Force game, including 33 Colorado cadets. The Club will also be selling memorabilia next to the Pikes Peak Society’s tailgate, so please stop by. USMA Parents will be gathering at the Walcott’s (Alex ’11) to watch the Army-Navy game and the Club’s signature event of the year, the Colorado All Service Academy Ball, will be held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs on Thursday, December 29th.
MG Steven P. Best Retirement
Steve is a WPSD board member and recently retired from the military on 2 July 2011. LTG David Huntoon '73, the Supe, presented Steve with the Distinguished Service Medal in Eisenhower Hall on 29 July 2011. MG Best's last assignment was as the Commander of the Army Reserve 75th Division (Training Support) in Houston, TX.