Dear Members and Friends,
Last night at our nation’s oldest Military Academy, on the banks of the Hudson River in New York, the approximately 1,000 corps of cadets of this year’s graduating class, in a West Point tradition called Post Night, chose their first posts, in order based on class rank.
In December these same senior class corps of cadets chose (through class ranking) their specific branch of the United States Army, from Infantry to Logistics. The United States Army allocates specific numbers of West Point Cadets per Army branch that are needed each year.
One of the nearly 20 Army branches is the Air Defense Artillery (ADA), which is the missile defense arm of the U.S. Army. This ADA branch is the only combat branch that does not belong to a Division. It is broken up into separate Brigades for regional theaters that may host other Service branches, Allies and multiple assets to include Divisions. The ADA is also the prime combat branch that allows women at every position and rank to serve in combat.
This year there are 52 spots in 11 ADA Posts from which these young 21 and 22 year-old West Point Cadets get to choose:
Fort Bliss, Texas
Fort Hood, Texas
Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Fort Lewis, Washington
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Fort Irwin, California
Dugway Proving Ground, Utah
Last night the 52 cadets, the dozen or so ADA branch officers and enlisted soldiers stationed at West Point, and Major General David Halverson, Commander of the Fire Centers (the school for both ADA and Field Artillery located in Fort Sill, Oklahoma that all graduating cadets will attend before their posts) all gathered in an intimate West Point classroom in Thayer Hall.
Listed on the big white board in the front of the room were the 11 ADA Posts and under each Post the exact amount of slots were listed, represented by a pasted white paper with the Brigade emblem in the center. The cadets sat in excitement, waiting to see which and where the slots would go. The ADA West Point professor, Captain Christie, then began to call out individual names, based on class rank and in a dramatic fashion. The selected cadet would look at all of the Brigades and then rip the paper slot off the board, with a round of applause and some fun, sparring comments from the crowd. Of course, the three German spots went first, followed by Japan and Korea, before the U.S. Bases went. Both Dugway Proving Ground in Utah for the JLENS and Fort Irwin, California looked to be vying for the last pick, but, to the credit of Cadets from all over our nation, they weren’t chosen at the very end.
As a not so subtle alternative, there is a unique and rarely used option on this same white board that calls for another three years of service and has four slots which gives the cadet first choice after the first five years of his post. There was one bold cadet at the very end that, instead of resorting to what was left on the board, stood up to the class and stated ‘a man chooses, a slave doesn’t’ and went for the extra three years to choose his service, prompting a thunderous applause.
These 52 cadets represent the most diverse in any branch from women, minorities, and the breadth of the Academy. It really shows how valued the missile defense mission is and the great future it has ahead. These young men and women will join the ranks and will become leaders of our military where we need it most.
Unlike the big draft board of the NFL draft, where same-aged adults get guaranteed contracts varying from $25 million to $50K plus their salary to play a game, these young lieutenants from West Point all get guaranteed contracts of about $30K salary; most of all, they serve for the ultimate cause of defending freedom with the ultimate sacrifice. It is by far the much nobler profession for the special ones of our country that are Army Strong to live and die for the United States of America.
Here is to the great honor, the prestige, and the great respect of our ultimate 52 draft picks for 2012 going into the missile defense branch.
It is all about selfless service.