Dear Members and Friends,
Protruding west on the high ground, forcing the massive Hudson River to bend, is the strategic point chosen by then General George Washington to defend New York. Upon that ground a fort was established; one of the first built and paid for by the U.S. Congress. This natural location on the west point forced sailing ships to navigate around a massive curve in the river, tacking up wind against the current from New York City and blocked sailing ships coming south from the St. Lawrence waterway in Canada. These factors, along with field artillery and heavy chains put across the river, deterred the world’s greatest Navy and the world’s greatest weapon of the time, the “man-of-war” sailing ship, from splitting the young colonies and dividing the fledgling nation.
Thomas Jefferson initially saw the idea of a military school as European and not in line with the new democracy. He reversed his opinion as President in 1802 and established the United States Military Academy (USMA) to produce engineers, leaders and military officers subservient to the U.S. Congress. Jefferson’s vision of the need to deter, defend and expand westward drove him to change his mind. Over 200 years later, the historic American institution called West Point has produced the nation’s greatest generals and two U.S. Presidents.
Each year roughly one thousand graduating cadets are placed by class rank, per current need, into the seventeen branches of the Army as Second Lieutenants. Each of these seventeen branches competes for the cadets, including Air Defense Artillery which missile defense falls under.
The deterrence and defense provided by the early Field Artillery placements has evolved into the Army’s Air Defense Artillery Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries. These batteries are often led by former cadets trained to defeat one of the most threatening weapon systems today, the ballistic missile. The West Point Cadets’ choices have also evolved. Once limited to only engineering, West Point now has a liberal arts college offering forty-five academic majors to choose from. West Point ranks as one of the top universities in the country and the world; in 2010 Forbes rated the USMA forth in the nation.
As this prestigious institution continuously embeds the values of duty, honor, and country into the long gray line of cadets, the call of duty in today’s world requires these traits more than ever. Combined with the honor code established at West Point these traits will bring strong leadership to an evolving world of mixed cultures and challenging beliefs.
MDAA had the honor to be among the young men and women that are taught here to give the ultimate sacrifice. It was an equal honor to meet the young cadets that have chosen Air Defense Artillery and missile defense as their future.
The nation and missile defense needs them more than ever to make the world a safer place.
“Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
– General Douglas MacArthur