I am an 18 year old from South Carolina who just graduated from high school. In exactly two weeks, I will be reporting to the United States Military Academy at West Point for basic training. If you have any advice for me, or just a great story to tell, please feel free to comment and share. Tips and tricks for getting through are especially welcome.
Good luck! The best advise I got for any basic training, I was AF, was it is all about folding your socks correctly. Or in normal english, its all about the details, everything you do yes everything.....really everything.....its about the details.
Congratulations and good luck. I was an enlisted man many years ago but I'd say that the principles never change.
1. Remember that the only thing you really have is your honor. That means doing the right thing for other people first and then for yourself.
2. Be a moral person and have faith. You don't have to be religious but you do have to have faith, because sometimes that's the only thing that will keep you going.
3. Study history. Learn and remember the traditions of the service you aspire to. You're going to get a reading list longer than your arm, but go beyond that. Look at people like Henry Knox, Nathaniel Greene, Thomas Jackson, Joshua Chamberlain, Theodore Roosevelt, John Pershing, Omar Bradley, Hal Moore and hundreds of others.
4. Learn what it means to be a leader. I'd recommend the Horatio Hornblower novels by CS Forester. Great stuff.
5. Don't take yourself too seriously. We used to say that the most dangerous things in the world were a corporal with a pistol and a second lieutenant with a compass.
6. Remember that no matter how tough things get for you, "this too shall pass". Never give up. Victory goes to the guy who holds out a minute longer.
7. Respect people - everybody. They might be in a position to save your life some day.
8. Be brave. Even if you're not, pretend to be. Nobody can tell the difference.
9. Strive to be the best at what you do.
10. If it ever comes to it, die facing the enemy.
That's all heavy stuff for a young man but a lot of young men grow up pretty fast - and some of them live to be old men.
I couldn't agree with Dave more! Especially #'s 1, 6, and 7.
On a more simplistic note, don't forget that eventually it is everyone's turn. It doesn't matter what's happening, something good or something not good. If your battle-buddy is getting yelled at today, it will probably be you tomorrow. Just take it like a man.
Thank's guys, that's great stuff. I'll be sure to look up the Hornblower series, Dave, as well as the historical figures you mentioned. I'm a pretty big history buff, so I thrive on that sort of thing, and I've already read books about TR, Blackjack Pershing, and the revolutionary heroes like Greene and Knox. I'll definitely take #5 to heart as well. I have a good sense of humor, but I have a lot of pride and don't take criticism too well, so Beast is gonna be tough for my ego.
#7 is another one that I'll pay special attention to. I have a tendency to take people for granted and only give my time and energy to people who are 'worth it', often ignoring the people who quietly function in the background. That's another function of my swollen head, in that I tend to make spot judgments of people and interact with them based on how I think they measure up to me. That makes me come across to a lot of people as arrogant, for the simple reason that I am. Humility has never been my strong suit. That's a big reason why I chose West Point- they'll do a good job of tearing me down before building me back up, which is something that I recognize needs to happen to me in order for me to reach my leadership potential.
Thanks again for the comments, guys- keep 'em coming!
One tip: it's not actually basic training; it's cadet basic. Who knows what it'll actually be like; it gets easier every year ("the Corps has" - you'll understand it later).
The better tip: don't let the popular cynicism of cadets get to you. You may think that this rule or that standard is stupid or pointless or misguided, but I promise you that there are a lot of people much smarter, better qualified, and more experienced than you or me making the decisions. Stay humble, work hard, and take all your peers with a grain of salt. We were all the "best and brightest;" but if that was enough, you wouldn't have to go to West Point. There's a reason for everything. Even if you don't understand it, just do your best to meet every standard.
I can't agree more with the '08 West Point grad. I'm an 09 USAFA grad. I don't have the lifelong perspective other guys mentioned, but I can tell you this: there are countless opportunities out there for cadets. Start trying to find them early. Whether it is language immersion or internships in DC or leadership opportunities in awesome programs, keep an eye out. Here's one I wish I'd paid more attention to while I was at school--the faculty at USAFA (and I assume USMA too) bring in awesome speakers for brown bag lunches. At USAFA, they'd post flyers near the faculty elevators--I don't know how they might advertise at USMA. If you can get tapped into that, though, you might meet some awesome people. That's just one of many examples of how a little digging can turn up some awesome opportunities.
Thanks again for all the comments (and thanks to AoM for putting a link to this discussion on the Weekly Roundup).
@ stick - I actually already know about 'The Corps has' because I went to Founders Day Dinner a couple of months. And I'm pretty sure they have a good point, because it sounds like my ride through is gonna be significantly easier than it used to be.
@ stick & Bruce - I'll be sure to keep in mind that everything at Beast happens for a reason. I have a tendency towards both sarcasm and cynicism, so I will definitely be actively trying to keep a positive attitude and to learn all I can while I'm there.
@ Parker - Thanks for the tip. I will certainly be taking advantage of every opportunity to build connections that I come across. I'm going in to USMA with the intention of making the most of it, so I'll need to be on my toes all the time looking for those types of opportunities.
Congrats brother! I am an 18 year old from Wisconsin who is graduating high school in one week (Yes, my high school is officially the very last high school in the state to graduate its seniors this year). July 9th I'll be reporting to the United States Merchant Marine Academy for Indoctrination. I was recently told my a Marine Corps Sgt. that the best thing to do is do what you're told to do, do it right, and do it two seconds before you're told to do it. Also, keep in mind that all the seniors who are running Indoc have roles to fill. They may be screaming in your face one second, but they'll be laughing about it later. With the right attitude, BEAST/Indoc can be hilarious.
With that in mind, "laugh on the inside, never show emotion" was what the Marine Sgt told me.
I'm not going to be able to give you too much advice for West Point but I can give you advice for your career after graduation.
I'm the Platoon Leader's Gunner in a scout platoon in 3rd Infantry Division, and the biggest piece of advise I can give you is don't be afraid to listen to your soldiers. My LT graduated last year and came to our unit this week. He has quite alot of schools under his belt and has definitely earned his commission, however he doesn't quite understand how the Army works.
This has been an issue with several of my LT's in the past. They assume that because they went through West Point and Ranger school they know everything about being a soldier and how to lead soldiers, but they are wrong. They've never been in a real firefight, they've never had to react to contact where their men might actually die.
Trust your joes. Especially your NCO's. We've earned our stripes in combat and we know alot. Don't be afraid to ask for help, that's why we're there, to assist in your leadership of the platoon.
That being said, congrats on your appointment and good luck!
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