From the Foxhole…Meeting the needs of the Army for the Class of 2019 and beyond

By Maj. Jared Sunsdahl and Maj. Ryan Leach

November 29th, 2018 | News, News and Features

From its founding in 1802, graduates from the United States Military Academy have earned a reputation as the core of the Army’s Officer Corps. The quality of USMA graduates, as a result of the resources committed to this institution and the extensive training and education cadets receive during their 47-month immersive experience, is unparalleled. The Army’s recent experience across the greater Middle East and Southwest Asia has reinforced this hard-won reputation, with USMA graduates leading formations—large and small—with distinction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and surrounding countries.
The character and professionalism of recent graduates is not lost on Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army. Milley, like Chiefs of Staff before him, sees West Point as central to the Army’s leadership core.
Milley’s trust and confidence in USMA is evident in his vision for the Academy and its role in filling the operational force. For the Class of 2019, Army Leadership directed USMA to increase the number of graduates serving in combat arms branches. Based on the Army’s directive 81 percent of cadets from Class of 2019 will begin their Army service as commissioned officers in a Combat Arms branch.
These branches include Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, Air Defense, Engineer and Aviation. This is a 5 percent increase from last year’s graduating class and likely the first of a series of increases in USMA’s combat arms branch allocations over the coming years.  As it always has, USMA will adapt to respond to the ever-changing needs of the nation and Army to ensure its graduates are prepared to lead America’s sons and daughters in the complex global operating environment.
The Class of 2019 is trained and ready to meet this challenge. They completed a rigorous Cadet Leader Development Training, participated in West Point’s first Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise and led the Corps through an arduous iteration of Cadet Summer Training. Following Branch Night and throughout the second semester, USMA staff and faculty will capitalize on summer training successes and continue preparing the Class of 2019 for their transition from cadet to commissioned officer through the Department of Military Instructions’ Small Group Branch Education and Mentorship Program.
As the Academy continues to develop leaders of character for their future roles within the operational Army, it is continuously evaluating and evolving, seeking to be at the cutting edge of leader development. Over the past year, we’ve worked extremely hard with our stakeholders and partners to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our military training program here at the academy, including a long overdue overhaul of our training facilities and building strategic partnerships with the Army’s Centers of Excellence and Cadet Command.
While still evolving, the results have been promising. Across West Point and the nation, we’re building a team of teams that is dedicated to ensuring USMA graduates are able to meet the needs of the nation and continue to be the core of the Army Officer Corps. As West Point’s contribution to combat arms branches increases—and leadership within all branches is sought— so too must our efforts to prepare our cadets for the rigors of war.

In order to accomplish our sacred duty we must redouble our efforts and attack leader development and training with renewed vigor and commitment.
As Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis poignantly stated, “America has no per-ordained right to victory on the battlefield.”  How we choose to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets may very well be the difference between victory and defeat