Catholic High Grads Conquer the Beast

Jacob Roset and Tyler Mackenzie complete their first summer at West Point.

Fueled by patriotism and desire to serve, young men and women volunteer to be torn down, both physically and mentally, then rebuilt into the next generation of leaders of what many consider to be the most powerful military in the world.

Since the founding of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802,  young men and women seeking to serve their country have used it as an outlet to thoroughly explore the conflict of willpower versus pain and physical limitations. Over the past 10 years, the school has sent 26 graduates to the five United States service academies, eight of whom went to West Point. While it is nearly unheard of for average high schools to send more than a few graduates to the service academies in one year, the school has just done this consistently for over a decade. This fact just adds to the consensus that Catholic High produces a steady stream of graduates who make it their mission to serve others before themselves, just one aspect of their widely-developed character.

Last year, two graduates, Jacob Roset and Tyler Mackenzie, received appointments to the United States Military Academy. This past summer, Cadet Basic Training, called CBT or sometimes “The Beast,” initiated them into the cadet life. 

However, before they could look forward to sleep deprivation and day-long marches, cadets first had to commit themselves to the idea of service and a higher calling. Current freshman at West Point, Jacob Roset, said, “I’ve always had this idea that I wanted to serve. Service has been one of my core values for as long as I can remember, and I felt the military was the best way to do that.” A desire to serve is rooted in every cadet at the academies; it enables cadets to go above and beyond what they are told to do. One would simply be wasting taxpayer dollars if he or she just went through the motions and did only what was required. 

According to Roset, when one accepts admittance to an academy, that person is fully aware that he or she will have to endure four years of intense academics, physical training, and character-building followed by at least five years of service in the military. For the most part, an estimated $450,000 scholarship encourages those interested, but it will never “seal the deal,” as one might say. The intangible badge of honor and respect that comes with a degree from a service academy is also just not worth the dedication needed to succeed at West Point. The factor that truly motivates one to go to West Point, or any service academy for that matter, is completely mental and rooted in the heads of all in the public service field; it is the desire to serve their nation and their people.

On R-Day, or Reception Day, new cadets arrive at West Point for the first time and take their first step in becoming an officer in the United States Army. 

After being driven in on the buses and led into the Eisenhower Hall, a man walks in and describes the process that the soon-to-be cadets are about to undertake. He tells how they are about to become soldiers and then announces that they have 60 seconds to say goodbye to their families. West Point graduate and Federal Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe said, “The incoming cadets then are led down to the front and shuttled out to where the upperclassmen are waiting. It immediately starts the whole scene like you see on TV where they are shouting instructions at you and telling you things like ‘Shut up.’ It is really a scene of shock and awe.” 

The cadets are now alone without their parents or anyone to guide them; they are in a foreign environment and have to learn and figure things out by themselves. Judge Volpe said, “It’s designed to bring stress to you and make you function under a stressful environment.” This is done on purpose with the intent of getting cadets used to the stressful environments they will soon encounter in training and the battlefield situations they might encounter in the far-future during which a clear head is a necessity for survival. 

“CBT is the process of turning a civilian into a cadet,” said Roset. “The Beast,” is divided into two details, the first consists of knowledge-based curriculum concerning the military as well as constant physical training. The second detail consists of things related more towards technical proficiency. It is there where cadets learn to fire a rifle and throw grenades, survive in the wilderness and operate as a unit. 

Jacob Badasss

Roset in his uniform at West Point

A typical day during CBT consists of reveille at 0500 (5:00 a.m.). Cadets have only a few minutes to prepare for the day;  many take this time to brush their teeth or get their things together. They are then led out into formation, where they perform calisthenics meant to strengthen not only the body but the mind as well. After calisthenic exercises, cadets will take part in various forms of functional exercise such as log drills or bayonet courses. Physical training will then conclude with a two to four mile run every day.

Next is breakfast where cadets eagerly seek to replenish the stores of energy just previously exhausted. A full day of field or classroom training follows and cadets are exhausted by lights out at 2300 (11:00 p.m.), or sometimes even later. “We would get five-and-a-half hours of sleep max. Waking up was literally the hardest part,” said Roset.

Everyone has a different experience at West Point, with different high and low points throughout their time in training. A task that one cadet effortlessly completes may be arduous and grueling for another. 

While many cadets feel right at home alongside the yelling, gunfire, and overall stresses of the environment, some are simply are not cut out for this type of mental and physical strain. “Some people, their bodies can’t handle it, and some people, their minds can’t handle it,” said Judge Volpe. 

If a cadet feels as if there is no way he or she will be able to adapt to the new environment at West Point, then that person has the chance to drop out by a certain cutoff date. This is as much a safety thing as it is just weeding out weaker cadets. If a real-life battlefield scenario is the first time soldiers encounter a stressful situation, they are likely to put themselves and their entire unit in jeopardy if they do indeed panic.

While no one is ever fully prepared for everything he or she will encounter at West Point, there are factors that lay the groundwork for success for some cadets. Prior military-related knowledge, level of physical fitness, and high school environment all play important roles in determining the preparedness of cadets. 

Ret. Colonel Charles Johnson said, “JROTC can give a guy a leg up in basic training because they’ve got a basic sense of the military and how it operates, how to wear the uniform, customary courtesies, and military history.” If a cadet already has extended prior knowledge of what he or she is being taught in basic training, then the information will come much easier to him or her. This will give cadets space to focus on things that they are learning for the first time and will decrease their overall workload.

“Make sure that you are in the best physical condition that you can be in,” said Judge Volpe. Every morning at West Point, cadets will take part in some form of strenuous physical exercise. If one is out of shape and struggles through the entire morning, that means that he or she will have started the day off on the wrong foot and that may be reflected in classroom performance as well as mental health.

The environment of one’s high school prior to them going to West Point is an underrecognized but huge factor in one’s adjustment to the academy life. If one has gone to a high school that is lax in rules and does not make it a focal point to develop the character of its students, then the environment at West Point will come at much of a shock to him or her and they could have a hard time adjusting.  Roset said, “Catholic provided me with the tools I needed for success. It gave me the ability to work hard and adapt. Those are things I don’t know if I would have learned at another school.”

While there is no way to directly compare the school to West Point as they each have very different objectives, many of the things beyond academics that are taught at the school are also highly valued at West Point. Col. Johnson said, “I really appreciate how intertwined Catholic High’s value and mission is with that of JROTC and the military. While there are a lot of schools that are struggling at how to shape student’s character, Catholic High strives to excel at that.” 

 

 

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