With the backdrop of the Verrazano Bridge under a summer-like sun, a proud parade of cadets from the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point showed off their tradition of the “Long Gray Line,” marching in gray and white uniforms on April 18 as the Fort Hamilton Army Base celebrated its first West Point Day.
West Point’s focus on science, technology, engineering, math and cadets’ experiences were showcased as attendees had the opportunity to meet and speak with current USMA-enrolled cadets and learn about the Academy.
“We’re not as far away as a lot of people think,” said Jim Fox, public affairs specialist at West Point. “We’re only 50 miles away and we’re a college like a lot of colleges are in America. We just happen to make our kids get up for class every morning and they all dress alike.”
Fox also noted that the academy – a regular undergraduate college – has 4,400 cadets at any one time, bringing in about 1,200 new cadets every year from all over the country, with a graduation rate of 1,000 per year, emphasizing physical fitness, intelligence and leadership skills.
“The opportunity to build a relationship with New York City is something that really is important to us at West Point and we hope that New York understands that as well,” said Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, Jr., West Point superintendent. “We very much appreciate Fort Hamilton and Colonel Davidson opening up the doors to come down here.”
Original plans had West Point Day in Downtown Brooklyn, but city rules prevented that from fully materializing, according to Bruce Hill, media relations officer for the Fort Hamilton Army garrison, who mentioned that the army base was a better place to hold it, so the tradition could “start and explode there.”
After the march, the West Point Pipes, Drums and Drill Team played for the public, topping off the day in style, and with both sides encouraged by the great turnout.
“I wanted to make sure that New Yorkers understand that is potentially a resource for people that want to become officers in the United States Army, but also serve our great nation, but then it’s also free education,” said Colonel Joseph Davidson, Fort Hamilton Army garrison commander. “People [should] understand that it’s available and I think there’s a lack of understanding of that within the city, so that’s really the genesis of why this day came about.”