Bush: Free time a rare thing for freshman at West Point

July 15, 2013

Editorís note: Jordan Bush, a 2012 graduate of Smith-Cotton High School, shares her experiences during her first year at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army upon graduation. She is the daughter of Tom and Julie Bush, of Sedalia.

My first summer at West Point was called Cadet Basic Training, or CBT. Unlike standard Army basic, this only lasts six weeks (of course, there is more summer training in the future that makes up for the shortness of CBT), and is run by the upper-class cadets.

We did ruck marches and learned how to shoot, perform first aid, navigate terrain and do other basic Army skills. Nothing was too horrible with the exception of memorizing knowledge ó something a little unique to West Point. Basically, all of us new cadets had to rattle off songs, policies, quotes and definitions verbatim to an upperclassman to get it ďchecked off.Ē We had to get everything in the book checked off before we finished CBT.

†Soon, the school year approached. West Point does a shift from military to academic during this time, but military standards such as uniforms and clean rooms are still kept. Plebes (freshmen) have to stay ďlocked upĒ during the entirety of their first school year. This includes walking along all walls, squaring corners (taking sharp, militaristic left and right turns), cupping your hands into fists at all times, no talking to anyone who isnít an upperclassman and greeting all upperclassmen who walk by.

Safe zones were only our rooms and academic buildings where classes are held. Every cadet also needs to be involved in some sort of sport as well, whether itís an intramural or a Division I NCAA sport. We all have to choose one. I went with the competitive club triathlon team. I love triathlon and would never want to quit, but it does soak up a lot of time ó a precious commodity at West Point.

That, combined with plebe duties (taking out trash, etc.) and homework, creates little to no spare time. My standard day starts with waking up at 5:15 a.m., swimming until 6:30, mandatory breakfast at 7:05, classes from 7:30 a.m. to noon, mandatory lunch, classes from 1:30 to 4 p.m., practice from 4:30-6:30 (or longer), dinner and trying to finish homework and duties in the three-hour time frame I have left.

I could always stay up later to finish things, but I quickly learned that at least six hours of sleep is necessary with the triathlon team. Classes are the standard math, science, history, etc., but there are also physical education courses. Plebes take combatives (males take boxing instead) and ďmilitary movement,Ē a kind of gymnastics.

Nearly everything at West Point is graded, even attitude. Itís split up so that our GPAs are 55 percent academic, 30 percent military and 15 percent physical. It was kind of scary when I realized that I had been graded on how well I could keep my head and eyes straight forward since day one.

Iíve just recently finished airborne school, where I learned how to jump out of an airplane and land safely with a parachute. Now Iím getting ready to head off to Cadet Field Training ó three weeks of expanding on the skills we learned during CBT. Iíll be returning home before the school year starts, in which I will be a Yuk (sophomore).

Iíll be declaring my major as well, which will most likely be chemistry. Iím definitely looking forward to a new school year where I know how everything works and am allowed more freedoms compared to my plebe year.