Reflections on Branch Night

#NetworkScience

Mr. Bill Truran of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) attended the recent Small Arms Technology seminar hosted by West Point’s Network Science Center. During his visit, Mr. Truran and other seminar attendees had the unique opportunity to witness the Branch Night celebration of the West Point first-class cadets (seniors). Mr. Truran provides his thoughts below:

“Following a worthwhile day with other SMEs trying to capture what will happen in the future, we looked at the “now” and I felt honored to be able to glimpse one of the cherished traditions and pivotal moments of a cadet: when they are assigned a branch and find out where their career path will lead.

Mr. George Herc and Mr. Bill Truran from ARDEC celebrate with Cadet Leslie Davis on Branch Night.

Their excitement was contagious. In the melee, I met and spoke with a proud alumni (Mr. Schwartz) who was part of the 50-year graduates who have guided the corps of seniors through their education. This Vietnam vet’s son and grandson also attended USMA and hit home with me on his first-hand impression of General Douglas McArthur’s Farewell Speech at West Point in 1962. Earlier in the day, we had an opportunity to walk through the mess hall and note where this historic event actually took place.

Next, being able to attend the actual central den of the seniors, the Firstie Club, was an additional chance of a lifetime to see the excited cadets who captured the moment with brews and photos taken with their teammates/classmates. One cadet was burdened with acquiring two pitchers of beer and mugs who, by the way, is a Rhodes Scholar handling menial work for his team. I was standing in the presence of greats. We had the pleasure of company of several colonels and faculty of West Point–LTC Barnes (who will be going down range soon and imparted a personal touch of buying his own equipment–lesson learned-why can’t I and our Army R&D provide?), LTC Elliott helping to develop cadet opportunities, COL Goldman, and COL Graham providing a central hub for discussions and connections and of course in charge of a ready pitcher at a strategic bar location.

A thoughtful visit by the class historian helped to photographically preserve a lasting impression of the night. When returning to the Thayer Hotel, we saw some firsties leaving, and a proud mother waving goodbye to her daughter jumping on the last bus back.”

About John Willis

Director of Research Operations, Institute for Innovation and Development, US Military Academy, West Point, NY. Retired US Army offficer. Previous assignments as Asst. Professor in the USMA Dept. of Systems Engineering, analyst for TRAC-Monterey, and a variety of command and staff positions as a field artillery officer.
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