Allies come together for annual competition, culture exchange

By Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

January 24th, 2019 | In Focus, News
Members of the Corps of Cadets hosted officer cadets from the Royal Military College of Canada Jan. 17-19 at the U.S. Military Academy during the USMA-RMC Exchange weekend. The cadets attended morning and afternoon formations, attended classes and shared meals at the Cadet Mess. A series of competitions and activities took place to include the Chess competition Photo by  Class of 2020 Cadet Evan Crowell
 Tae-Kwon Do, Army-RMC Hockey game, debates and crew.  This year’s exchange continues a tradition that began in 1923. The hockey game is considered the longest-running international sports competition in the world.   Photo by Class of 2022 Cadet Crystal Zhang

When U.S. Military Academy graduates begin their military careers, a key part of their jobs will be working with allies and partners in areas of combat.
Current West Point cadets were given a jumpstart on building the relationships they will need in their careers during the annual exchange with Canada’s Royal Military College Jan. 17-19. Cadets from West Point made the journey north to spend the weekend at RMC while more than 100 Canadian cadets traveled to West Point.
The exchange gave cadets from the two schools the opportunity to build relationships and exchange ideas by attending classes, touring the campuses and engaging in friendly competition.
Friday at West Point, the RMC cadets had the chance to attend courses along with their West Point counterparts and then Saturday’s schedule included competitions between multiple clubs including the pipes and drums, judo teams and debate clubs. The capstone event of the exchange was the annual hockey game between Army and RMC, which has been played since 1923.
Army trailed 2-1 in the third period of Saturday’s game before two goals in quick succession helped the Black Knights secure the 5-2 win. It was Army’s eighth straight win over RMC.
“It is really important seeing we have allies who are so close that we have opportunities like this to engage with one another,” RMC Cadet Wing Commander Zoe Price said. “As much as it is a morale thing to have the chance to get together and have fun and compete, it is also a networking opportunity. These are people we are very much going to be working with in the future. I think it is a great time to get to know those faces.”
While both RMC and West Point are four-year institutions, they differ greatly in size with RMC having less than 2,000 cadets spread among Army, Navy and Air Force units. The annual exchange between the two military academies gives cadets from both the opportunity to build relationships they can turn to later in their careers while also learning more about how an ally army operates.
“One of the things we get out of this is getting to experience Canadian culture and Canadian military culture, which in a couple different ways is similar and different than ours,” Class of 2019 Cadet Haley Steele said. “We get to figure out how their Army works and how they are organized into different units and work together compared to our similar units. It is useful moving into the future in case we run into them while deployed. We already have an understanding of the language they use and how their units work in the field. That gives us a little edge up on people that wouldn’t otherwise know.”
While building relationships is important, Steele, who is the Pipe Major for the USMA Cadet Pipes and Drums, was also focused on beating her comrades from Canada. This year was the first time the two pipe and drum units competed, but they were also forced to build relationships and a spirit of camaraderie prior to playing together at Saturday’s hockey game.
The ability to balance friendship and competition was one of the many lessons cadets from both academies were able to learn during the weekend.
“I think building relationships now is important because being in college is such a developmental part of your time,” Steele said. “People say your mind gets closed as you get older so getting this multicultural connection now embeds that in you as the way you want to live and learn more about other peoples’ cultures.”
Another vital opportunity for cadets from RMC and West Point to learn from each other came Friday when Price attended a Firstie capstone class on officership along with Class of 2019 Cadet First Captain David Bindon. Both Price and Bindon said the opportunity was special because it enabled them to see the similarities of how their armies operate, while at the same time seeing how opinions can vary widely despite their close geographic proximity.
“You might not think other militaries operate the same way we do, but for the most part they talk about the same issues and things we do in terms of leadership and mission command and control,” Bindon said. “It was awesome to have her in there and see that our allies can participate in all the same conversation we can. You just need to extend your hand and bring them into the conversations.”
While the RMC cadets were visiting West Point, a consortium of USMA cadets were able to visit Canada and get a firsthand look at RMC. Seventy-five cadets made the journey north and spent the weekend attending RMC classes and shadowing their host cadet.
“I think it was relatively similar,” Class of 2019 Cadet Carla Figueroa-Matos said of RMC. “They have a smaller armed force than we do, but everyone there had the same commitment we do. It kind of opens our eyes. We get kind of stuck at West Point seeing our own Army and armed forces. Seeing how they function and what they prioritize was an eye opener that our way isn’t the only way to do something.”
During their visit, the USMA cadets were able to gain a unique experience because RMC is a tri-service academy, so they spent time with future leaders from Canada’s Army, Navy and Air Force.