The End of Plebe Year…

 Posted by on May 26, 2012  West Point
May 262012

Today, the USMA Class of 2012 graduated and commissioned in the U.S. Army, and the Class of 2015 was officially recognized by the upperclass cadets of the United States Military Academy.  Plebe year has ended.

With the end of the year come the assortment of privileges granted to upperclass cadets; we can now talk outside, don’t have to walk on the walls or cup our hands, and can eat inside Grant Hall.  Yet out most important new responsibility is the plebe entrusted to each of us when we return in August for the new school year.  We are responsible for everything our plebes do; when they break a rule or miss a class, we are both held responsible.

Yuk year will be much different than plebe year, but I’m eager to get underway.  Until then, off to Air Assault School, some leave with my family, and Cadet Field Training at Camp Buckner.

Gamecube Nostalgia

 Posted by on May 15, 2012  Tech & Gaming
May 152012

I remember the day my brothers and I received a Nintendo Gamecube.  It was Christmas morning, 2002, and my family still lived in Miami, Florida.  The Gamecube was the “grand finale” gift, and we spent the rest of the day rotating turns on Super Mario Sunshine. Despite our shared love of the system (we spent innumerable afternoons playing Super Smash Bros. Melee with the other kids in the neighborhood), I didn’t beat Super Mario Sunshine until 2009.  One day that year, I went down to the basement of our house in Pennsylvania, re-discovered the system and game, and beat it within a week.  “Closing” that unfinished childhood memory was a conflicting feeling, and reminded me of all the games I had left incomplete.

I downloaded Dolphin, a Gamecube emulator, a few weeks ago.  I’ve worked with emulators in the past, but most have been for Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color/Advance, and Playstation.  I’m currently playing through Metroid Prime, another “unfinished chapter” of my childhood.  Just booting up the game brought back a resurgence of memories: the thrill of visiting an alien world, fear of the monsters around the corner, and the excitement of taking down a tough boss.  I’ll probably beat the game with 100% completion within a week, just by playing in my free time.  I can’t recommend it more.  The emulation software is excellent (it supports resolutions higher than the standard 480p offered by the Gamecube) and I’ve been using a USB Xbox 360 controller, which works very well.  If you’re seeking a nostalgia rush, Dolphin can’t be beat.

Consolidating my Sites

 Posted by on May 11, 2012  Tech & Gaming
May 112012

Some posts, reviews, and files will be making appearances as I work to consolidate the contents of and on this site.  Most of them are rather old; the last time I made significant revisions to those sites was 2009.  That said, the content is still pertinent and (I think) worth reading.  So, be on the lookout for more material as I work to combine the new with the old.

A Somber Start to the Day

 Posted by on May 10, 2012  West Point
May 102012

Today at breakfast, as per the usual procedure for meals, the Corps of Cadets was called to attention.  Table commandants were called up to the Poop Deck to pick up floaters, but the magnified voice then broke from the usual script: “Please give your attention to the First Captain.”

The First Captain — Charlie Phelps — took the microphone, and I saw a few eyes roll.  It was probably another announcement about events leading up to graduation, more words that stood between 4,700 cadets and mess hall food.

“I regret to inform you…”

Instantly, the mess hall became silent.  One or more members of the Long Gray Line had died, and the First Captain bore the somber duty of announcing their names and backgrounds to the Corps.  This morning, the Corps was informed of the deaths of two of its graduates: Mario Hill and 2LT David Rylander.

Mario was a 2010 graduate and a member of the Army football team.  He was unable to commission after graduation due to medical reasons, and was killed in a car crash in Kentucky on May 5, 2012.

2LT Rylander was a 2011 graduate and a member of company E4.  He had commissioned with the Engineers, was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, and died in an IED blast in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

It becomes easy for us to lose sight of the “big picture” when we spend the majority of our time here attending class, studying, and struggling to find more time for sleep.  This morning’s announcement was a somber reminder of the price we pay for what is widely called a “free” education.  We commit five years of our lives to active duty service, and another three years to a Reserve role.  However unpleasant the thought, that commitment comes with the possibility of prematurely lengthening the Long Gray Line of deceased West Point graduates.  As we sang in a gravelly chorus this morning:

And when our work is done,
Our course on earth is run,
May it be said, “Well done;
Be thou at peace.”
E’er may that line of gray
Increase from day to day
Live, serve, and die, we pray,
West Point, for thee.

Finishing Up Plebe Year

 Posted by on May 8, 2012  West Point
May 082012

Seventeen and a butt days until recognition for the Class of 2015.  It’s been a long journey, but we’re almost through.  I haven’t updated this website since I revised it over Winter Break, but I want to get started again.  I figure there’s no better time than right now; there are only three days of classes left, the teachers have run out of work to assign, club and sports practices have ended, and we seem to spend our evenings in the barracks watching movies and playing games as we try to ignore the looming Term-End Exams (TEEs).  Here’s what’s coming up for me for the foreseeable future:

  • 14-17 May: I have five TEEs (History of the Military Art, Psychology, Philosophy, Physics, and Differential Equations)
  • 17-20 May: I’m going to try to visit a friend on Cape Cod for TEE leave
  • 20-26 May: Graduation Week – 0400 wakeups and lots of drill…
  • 26 May: Graduation for the Class of 2012 – I’m released for Summer Leave
  • 26 May – 3 June: Leave – I’ll probably spend most of it at our lake house in NJ
  • 3 June: I report back to West Point for two days of preparation before Air Assault School at Camp Smith, NY
  • 5-15 June: Air Assault School (Something to go on the uniform…)
  • 16-30 June: Leave – I’ll probably go down to VA, and will fly out to Texas with the family to see my brother taped for NPR
  • 1-27 July: Cadet Field Training at Camp Buckner – Summer camp with guns or four weeks of hell in the field (depends on who you ask)
  • 27 July – 15 August: Leave – probably split between NJ and VA, maybe flying out to CO to see the family at some point
  • 16 August: School reconvenes at USMA, I get a plebe, and the grand cycle begins once again…

Since coming to West Point, I’ve become pretty good at planning out my life.  My agenda tells the story; success at West Point during plebe year (especially during Beast) is largely a matter of being “in the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform.”  It seems to eliminate a lot of low-level thinking, and helps you focus on classes, PT, or ways to finagle an extra nap into your day.

Signs of the year’s end are everywhere.  My room hasn’t been inspected in over a month, the Firsties don’t seem to care about anything except plans for Graduation Week, and everyone else is “checking out” in anticipation of the summer on the horizon.  Five tests, a week of drill practice, and one graduation ceremony, and we’ll be a full quarter of the way through our journey.