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WEST POINT, NY — After Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, announced March 19 that the Corps of Cadets would not be returning from spring break as planned, academy leadership immediately began planning how and when cadets would arrive back at West Point.
That plan will go into effect Tuesday as the first members of the Class of 2020 return to West Point to begin outprocessing prior to their graduation ceremony June 13.
The cadets are currently spread throughout the country but they have to return to the academy before beginning their Army careers. At the bare-minimum, cadets need to move out of their rooms in the barracks and pickup their cars if they didn’t take them home for spring break. The future second lieutenants are also required to outprocess from the academy before moving on to the Army. Many of the outprocessing steps require cadets to be in person at West Point such as medical screenings, closing accounts and returning ID cards.
Because the return of the cadets was necessary, a planning group quickly began working out the details of how it would be accomplished in the middle of a pandemic. Lt. Col. George Mitroka, who oversaw the planning process, said the development of the plan to bring back the Class of 2020 began with representatives from throughout the academy coming together before a whiteboard. They then began brainstorming each step of the process that would be required for the cadets to return to the academy safely.
The Army’s top leaders are defending their decision to bring 1,000 cadets back to the Military Academy at West Point for graduation, where President Donald Trump is slated to speak.
he Army’s top leaders on Thursday defended their decision to bring 1,000 cadets back to the Military Academy at West Point for graduation, where President Donald Trump is slated to speak, saying that despite the coronovirus risk students would have had to return anyway to prepare for their next duty assignment.
The announcement has been criticized as a political move to get Trump on stage at the academy, where he hasn’t yet given a graduation address. But Army officials said the students must return for final medical checks, equipment and training.
“We can’t telecommute to combat,” Gen. James McConville, the chief of staff of the Army, told Pentagon reporters when asked about the decision, which forces cadets spread out across the U.S. to travel, risking exposure on public transportation, and then land in New York, a coronavirus hot spot.
Cadets have been home since spring break in March, with their return to school delayed because of the outbreak. Only the seniors will return, and the graduation is set for June 13.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, intends to test all cadets returning to graduate in June for the novel coronavirus using two new GeneXpert devices procured after the academy established a planning group in mid-March to determine how the process would work.
The return will be similar to how the Army has been bringing new recruits into basic training, according to a West Point spokesman. The planning group has also received input from Training and Doctrine Command on that process.
Cadets will return to campus in small, staggered groups. They’ll be paced in hard structures in the summer training area and wait there for tests results to come back, which should be the same day the swab is taken.
“If they come back clean, they’ll come on campus to their dorm room, and we’re calling it a soft quarantine,” said West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt.
“They won’t be moving in big groups and having formations,” he added, saying that it’s still yet to be determined what that soft quarantine will entail because of constant updates to Center for Disease Control and Army guidance.
West Point also outfitted its hospital, which had an out-patient focus with an ER and elective surgeries before the pandemic, with a new intensive care unit that includes six ventilators if necessary. There were no ventilators there before.
President Donald Trump has been expected to speak at the graduation ceremony, though the pandemic left it unclear whether the ceremony would happen at all.
The New York Times reported Friday that the president’s announcement at a news conference that he was still attending the graduation caught West Point officials off-guard, though the Times noted that planning had already been underway even if it had not been announced. Cadets have also always known that returning to West Point would have to happen in some manner, said Ophardt.
President Trump said Friday he intends to deliver the commencement address this year at the U.S. Military Academy, according to reports.
The graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 23 at the academy in West Point, N.Y., though whether that date will hold was uncertain because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Nevertheless, the president said social distancing practices will be in place when the event is held.
“They’ll have some big distance, so it will be very different than it ever looked,” the president said, according to The Hill. “Do I like the look? No, I don’t. And eventually, next year, they’ll have a commencement like it’s been.”
As you have likely observed in recent news reports, COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Department of Defense (DoD), continue to assess the risks to provide guidance on the spread of the virus and the U.S. Government response. The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Army Garrison at West Point are closely monitoring the situation.
Due to the significant changes regarding the health risks associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Military Academy will delay the return of the Corps of Cadets from spring break until March 29, 2020. We continue to encourage our cadets, staff and faculty to practice heightened hygiene measures. Some of the planned precautions include:
Isolation for those who have traveled to specific areas of concern
Implementing social distancing measures
Cadets should remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy and reporting of travel. Staff and faculty should contact their supervisors for the latest information regarding their work status. If you do not feel well or are experiencing flu like symptoms, do not come to work.
The U.S. Military Academy will be temporarily closed to visitors beginning Friday evening, March 13, until further notice.
The U.S. Military Academy will officially celebrate the 218th anniversary of its founding March 16, but the academy kicked off the monthslong celebration Feb. 27 with the annual Founders Day Corps Dinner.
Over the next two months, more than 120 West Point societies throughout the world will host Founders Day events honoring the contributions academy graduates have made and will continue to make to the Army and the United States as a whole.
Since its founding in 1802, the U.S. Military Academy has educated and trained the future leaders of the Army and prepared them to fight and win in the crucible of ground combat. More than 200 years after the first class of cadets graduated, West Point remains the pre-eminent leader development institution in the world.
The Founders Day events bring together alumni, current and future cadets, and the community where the event is being held. Each event features remarks by the oldest and youngest graduate in attendance as well as a keynote address from a member of the academy leadership or a prominent West Point graduate.
The dinner for the Corps of Cadets served as the first event in the monthslong Founders Day celebration. The goal of the evening was to prepare cadets to follow in the footsteps of the members of the Long Gray Line who have or are currently serving in hostile environments throughout the world.
WEST POINT, N.Y. — When Lt. Col. Jason Barnhill traveled to Africa last summer, he took with him not only the normal gear of an Army officer, but also a 3D printer.
Barnhill, who is the life science program director at the U.S. Military Academy, traveled to Africa to study how 3D printers could be used for field medical care. Barnhill’s printer was not set up to print objects made out of plastics as the printers are frequently known for. Instead, his printer makes bioprinted items that could one day be used to save Soldiers injured in combat.
The 3D bioprinting research has not reached the point where a printed organ or meniscus can be implanted into the body, but Barnhill and a team of cadets are working to advance the research in the field.
Twenty-six firsties are doing bioprinting research across seven different projects as their capstone this year. Two teams are working on biobandages for burn and field care. Two teams are working on how to bioengineer blood vessels to enable other bioprinted items that require a blood source, such as organs, to be viable. One team is working on printing a viable meniscus and the final team is working on printing a liver.
The basic process of printing biomaterial is the same as what is used to print a plastic figurine. A model of what will be printed is created on the computer, it is digitally sliced into layers and then the printer builds it layer by layer. The difference is the “ink” that is used.
The West Point Association of Graduates is pleased to announce that six-time U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will receive the 2020 Sylvanus Thayer Award. The award will be presented on October 1, 2020 during ceremonies hosted by Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, Class of 1983, 60th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
West Point Association of Graduates Board Chairman Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Joseph E. DeFrancisco, Class of 1965, said, “The West Point Association of Graduates is honored to present the Thayer Award to Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Ambassador Crocker’s distinguished service to our country spans more than 40 years, starting in 1971 as a Foreign Service Officer. During his service, he excelled many significant assignments, including reestablishing an American diplomatic presence in Afghanistan during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, and assisting in the formation of the Iraq Governing Council, the first Iraqi governing structure after the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Without question, Ambassador Crocker’s career stands as an exemplar of Duty, Honor, Country, making him a most worthy selection of our highest award.”
In the skies over France as part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt’s plane got lost.
Merritt was a corporal in 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the time. Between midnight and 3 a.m., more than 800 planes carried in excess of 2,000 British and American Soldiers over Normandy to launch the assault on the German Army.
The planes were divided into battalions of 40 with radar in only the lead plane. As Merritt’s plane approached Normandy’s beaches, the lead plane banked to avoid enemy fire losing the 39 planes following it.
“My jumpmaster went up to see the pilot, and the pilot said ‘I’m lost. I can’t find your drop zone,'” Merritt said. “(My jumpmaster) said, ‘Are you over France? … I’m going back to the door. When I get back, give me the green light and we’re going to jump.’ Well, we did jump.”
Merritt’s jump into Normandy was one of the many stories he told to U.S. Military Academy cadets during a lecture Feb. 11. In World War II, Merritt, who retired from the Army in 1975, fought on D-Day, in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He also fought in Korea and Vietnam during his Army career.
There was a lot of partisan rhetoric tossed around at the 2020 State of the Union address on Tuesday. But among the many storylines that emerged from the event, there were some that rose above party lines and united communities instead of dividing them.
Such was the case for April Morgan, the mother of fallen West Point cadet Christopher “C.J.” Morgan, who attended President Donald Trump’s speech as the honored guest of U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
The fallen 22-year-old from West Orange – whom Sherrill said was “the best and brightest of our country” – died in a tragic armored car crash in June 2019 near the U.S. Military Academy’s summer training site in Orange County, New York. Morgan was entering his senior year at the iconic institution.
“Our entire community grieves with the Morgan family,” Sherrill said, adding that she was honored that April Morgan accepted her request to attend the annual event in Washington D.C.