Parents experience West Point during Plebe Parent Weekend; Parents explore cadet life during PPW

Story and photos by Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

March 21st, 2019 | In Focus, News
 U.S. Military Academy Class of 2022 cadets show their parents around post during Plebe Parent Weekend March 8. Photo by Brandon O'Connor/PV
  Class of 2022 cadets and their parents visit the Physics and Nuclear Engineering department open house during Plebe Parent Weekend. Photo by Brandon O'Connor/PV
  U.S. Military Academy Class of 2022 parents tour the cadet uniform factory during Plebe Parent Weekend March 8.
 U.S. Military Academy Class of 2022 cadets celebrated the conclusion of Plebe Parent Weekend with a banquet March 9. The banquet included the unveiling of the class crest and an address by retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue II (above photo). The class crest is styled after the crest of the United States and features the class's crest “For Many, Stand the Few” written in Latin.

In their first year at the U.S. Military Academy, cadets learn how to be followers.
With cupped hands and no leadership roles, Plebes must first learn to follow before being given their first responsibilities as leaders during Yearling year. The system is turned on its head for one weekend each year as the upper three classes leave the first weekend of spring break and the Plebe class is left in charge.
The Class of 2022 had its first chance to be leaders March 8-10 during the annual Plebe Parent Weekend.
Starting at 12:50 p.m. on Friday, the upper three classes were released for break, the Plebes changed into dress grays and Class of 2022 cadets took command.
“It is a little daunting, but I have a newfound ownership of the corps that I didn’t have before,” Class of 2022 Cadet Seth Bolden, who served as regimental command sergeant major during Plebe Parent Weekend, said. “I had to meet with the Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. (Class of 2019 Cadet Joseph) Mannino and he said, ‘Make sure the place is not burned down when I get back.’ I know that is very much on me. It is encouraging because we are going to fill this role eventually and I can get a sneak peak of what it is going to be like.”
All the responsibilities typically held by the First Captain, his staff and company commanders fell on the Class of 2022 for the weekend. The Plebe leadership was chosen following a process including being nominated by a cadet leader or TAC, an application and an appearance before the brigade review board.
With only a few weeks’ notice before the weekend, the Plebe leaders were tasked with making sure the weekend went well. Their major responsibility was accountability, which included taking a head count at taps to ensure the entire class was back on post, coordinating rifle return after Saturday’s parade and manning security posts around central area to check IDs.
They also had to make sure everything went well with the parade itself, the banquet Saturday night and the hop that followed. The cadets in leadership roles also had to find a way to balance their responsibilities with spending time with their families who were in town for the weekend.
“I came to Plebe Parent Weekend last year, my brother is a Yuk, so I had the family experience side of it, which was wonderful,” Class of 2022 Cadet Francesco La Torre, who served as regimental commander, said. “I enjoyed Plebe Parent Weekend and now I get to have the cadet side. Having that knowledge of what I want Plebe Parent Weekend to look like is great because I want to be able to replicate that feeling for the families that are coming for the Class of 2022.”
After stepping into leadership roles for the weekend, the cadets tasked with leading their peers said they had a newfound respect for the cadet leadership who occupy those roles throughout the year. Learning to balance their roles with school work, even if only for a couple weeks, opened their eyes to what it takes to be a leader and what they have to look forward to in the coming years.
“It is pretty humbling, but I feel very proud to lead my class,” La Torre said. “Every single person in the Class of 2022 is an extraordinary person and anyone could be First Plebe. To be chosen amongst such a competitive pool of individuals is amazing. I am trying to cherish the experience.”
More than a thousand family members made their way to West Point for Plebe Parent Weekend and a chance to see a day in their cadets’ lives up close for the first time. Families were able to tour the cadet uniform factory, go to class with their cadet and then attend academic open houses throughout the academy.
Parents also had the chance to attend talks about academics, summer training and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, as well as a welcome session hosted by West Point leadership and more.
“It has been exciting and nerve racking at times,” Sean O’Neill, whose daughter Maggie O’Neill is a Class of 2022 cadet, said of the first year being a West Point parent. “It has been fun though and a pretty cool journey to watch from a distance. It is interesting because we didn’t get to see much of this on A-Day or R-Day. Seeing the everyday life of a cadet during the academic year has been pretty neat.”
Saturday, the families had the chance to attend a parade for the Class of 2022 during which the cadets marched past a reviewing station in front of Quarters 100. The weekend culminated with the annual Plebe Parent Weekend banquet in the Cadet Mess Hall.
During the banquet, the Class of 2022 unveiled its class crest for the first time. The crest is styled after the official crest of the United States and includes an image of the eagle in front of a backdrop depicting the view from Trophy Point. The class also chose to parallel the country’s crest and write the class motto “For Many, Stand the Few” in Latin on the crest.
The banquet featured an address by retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue II, USMA Class of 1980, who was invited by Class of 2022 president Xavier Williams, who he encouraged to apply to West Point after they met at a Brooks Brothers where Williams worked as a salesman.