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West Point cadets complete first year with celebratory 7-mile run

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On July 30, the road to and from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was full with people—the new cadets marching out to the Camp Buckner military reservation and the rising yearlings running back from it. In the middle of each of the groups’ journeys, they passed each other for a brief period of time, a moment of collision where the old trainees complete their mission and the new ones begin their next step.

For four weeks, the Class of 2021 new cadets experienced Cadet Basic Training I at West Point to learn the basics of soldiering. Class of 2018 cadet Marcos Arroyo, the CBT I Regimental Commander, said that he’s proud of the progress that the new cadets have made so far.

“The new cadets are being put in front of a firehose of tactical and cultural knowledge, all while being held to a standard of discipline and respect that most are not accustomed to,” he explained. “One of the most rewarding parts of this detail is watching them grow, not just individually, but as a team working together.”

As those new cadets worked as a team and completed their March Back to Camp Buckner, they entered CBT II, the real grit of the “Beast” where they will take the knowledge they studied during CBT I and apply it throughout their training.

While those new cadets still have two weeks left, the Class of 2020 cadets are officially done with plebe year as they finish Cadet Field Training with a celebratory 7-mile run back to West Point.

“I think it’s just a symbol that you’re done with plebe year,” Class of 2020 cadet Elizabeth Orr, remarked. “You’re finally done with all the duties and the random plebe tasks.”

For Orr, seeing the new cadets march out to Buckner was incredibly familiar.

“You’ve been in their shoes and you are hopeful for them because you know that in a year, they’ll be in your same spot, it’s kind of cool to see how far you’ve come,” she said. “They are where you used to be at the same time last year, it’s a good moment.”

Class of 2020 cadet Joshua Phillips shared a similar sentiment.

“I remember being those plebes marching out to Buckner and seeing the new cadet corporals running back and the one thing I could remember is they were so supportive, they were happy, they were cheering for us,” he reminisced. “So it’s kind of like our introduction to each other and it’s an amazing feeling.”

That introduction allows the rising yearlings to give a brief “hello” to their soon-to-be-plebes. As the academic year begins, the yearlings will become team leaders and be in charge of their very own plebe for the entirety of the year.

“We were just promoted to corporal and the run back is a way to get hype before we go to be leaders in the Corps and take care of one plebe,” Phillips said. “So it’s a pretty special initiation.”

For Class of 2020 cadet James Fako, having a plebe is what he’s most looking forward to as a yearling.

“With a plebe, you have a leadership position, you can help him and mentor him through the first year and I think that will be really rewarding,” he said.

As for the run back and march out happening simultaneously, Fako said that for new cadets it’s “kind of like a look in the future” and for him and his classmates, it’s a “look in the rearview mirror,” while boosting morale on each end.

In order to keep that morale, Fako also offered some advice for the new cadets as they enter the second part of CBT.

“Make the most of it. When you’re out in the field it’s a different experience than when you’re in the classroom and stuck at West Point,” he advised. “And keep working hard, there’s not a whole lot of time left, so try to remember all those experiences you have because Beast is such a unique experience— you are never going to treasure those moments, but you will remember them as you look back and reflect on them later.”

As the Class of 2021 continues Cadet Basic Training, the Class of 2020 will be able to enjoy the rest of their summer before they return back to West Point for reorganization week. n