Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Mission Statement According to a Cadet...

It is impossible to get an accurate view of the United States Military Academy completely from outside its walls. Therefore, in order to obtain well rounded information regarding the school I spoke with an attending cadet.
William Guinther is a freshman, or “plebe” at West Point. He has been in attendance since July 2nd, and has participated in a variety of courses and extracurricular activities. In addition to surviving six weeks of Cadet Basic Training over the summer, he has been a part of West Point’s varsity swim team, water polo team, and scuba diving team. He has dealt with rigorous academics and hazing by upperclassmen, and feels overall that West Point has been, and continues to be an intense experience. During our conversation, I asked him specifically about West Point’s mission statement, and how it plays into his life. He began by impressively reciting the mission statement word-for-word, a task that even the most theatrically-savvy would struggle with. The first aspect of the mission statement that he addressed was interestingly the order of words. He found it notable that West Point’s goal to “inspire” was last on the mission statement list, after “educate” and “train.” Cadet Guinther said that the United States Military Academy wanted people to arrive at the school already inspired. You were supposed to come knowing that you wanted to become part of the military. He noted that at West Point, inspiration takes a back seat to education, where at civilian colleges; the reverse tends to be the case. He went so far as to say that West Point does inspire you, just only in one direction. Cadet Guinther also mentioned that at West Point, those in attendance are told that their major does not impact what they will be doing in the military. It is more important that cadets acquire critical thinking skills that can then be transferred to their service in the army. Personally I found this particular mindset similar to that of a civilian college, where learning applicable life skills is more important than memorizing vocabulary words.
I then asked Cadet Guinther whether or not he thinks that in general West Point achieves its goal as outlined in the mission statement. He said yes, and that the school is based upon a doctrine of slow immersion into a military lifestyle that begins on day one. CLDS (Cadet Leadership Development System) begins the moment freshman walk on to campus, and concludes with graduation. The four years at West Point are spent gradually building higher military expectations with lower supervision, a system that thus far seems to be creating strong military leadership. Despite the foreignism of West Point’s mission statement, based on my conversation with Cadet Guinther I have to believe that it serves a purpose (Guinther).


Guinther, William. Telephone interview. 04 March 2008.

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