Paths to West Point
In July of 2012 at the United States Military Academy, a group of young men and women began what may be the most challenging journeys of their lives. It started with Reception Day — the first day for West Point's Class of 2016.
West Point designates slots each year to prior service members. Of the 1,193 cadets reporting for that R-Day, 105 were prior service, including 35 Guard Soldiers. They were now part of one of the most elite groups in the world: the cadets past and present known as the Long Gray Line. To count themselves as permanent members, however, they must first prove themselves throughout a 47-month experience that's designed to mold them into leaders.
Guard cadets have a major advantage over the civilians because they have been to Basic Combat Training and AIT, and some have a combat deployment under their belt. They understand what it takes to be a Soldier.
"What they bring to the table are a couple of things," says Colonel Joseph DeAntona, West Point's brigade tactical officer. "One being maturity, because they tend to be a little bit older. And two, a good understanding of the institution and the profession that the rest of these new cadets will join once they leave West Point. So they act as peer leaders, if you will, for a host of high school young men and women who don't really have an understanding of what the Army is."
If the cadets can keep up with the Point's blistering pace, they will be on track to graduate as second lieutenants in the Army. But first, they have to survive one of the most demanding college experiences in the country.