Category Archives: Of Interest…

West Point’s Infamous Indoor Obstacle Course

Gray Matter – 17 March 2011

Mention of the words “indoor obstacle course” to most West Point cadets or graduates, and you are bound to get an interesting reaction. For some, it recalls a recurring opportunity to set a record in physical education, or at least chalk up a maximum grade. For others, it means several afternoons spent in practice, attempting to cut a few seconds off the time required to negotiate an obstacle by improving one’s form, if only for bragging rights within one’s cadet company. For many, it was part of the natural course of events – neither feared excessively nor considered a great way to spend an afternoon. For some, however, images of “mission impossible” come to mind, due to inherent problems with height or upper body strength. All, however, unite in recalling the dry, dusty feeling in one’s lungs during the three laps on the indoor track that immediately preceded the finish line.

The indoor obstacle course now must be passed in order to graduate, and it is a devilishly intricate and demanding test of agility, flexibility, confidence and endurance involving eleven obstacles. Early versions arranged some of the obstacles in a different order, but the three minutes or so of hell remain about the same for all.

Nowadays, the first obstacle after the command of “Go” requires one to crawl under a low frame with a plastic or other sheet over the top. Hitting the supporting frame is slightly painful; bumping the sheet too much slows you down. Immediately following is obstacle two: a series of tires that forces you to raise your legs high to navigate without tripping. Not terribly difficult, but a single misstep can cause you to fall and lose precious seconds. An overly cautious approach costs almost as much time and runs the risk of being run over by the cadet who started 15-20 seconds behind you.

Obstacle three has changed in spirit, if not substance, over the years. It is a padded pommel horse draped in a mat, and at one time in the past, a dive, tuck and forward roll was required. Since military movement first became a part of the curriculum of the Department of Physical Education, now one’s hands may be placed on the horse and a vault executed with no other part of the body touching the horse. Also, a degree of subjectivity is introduced. A grader determines if you landed “under control” or not.

Assuming that you were under control and did not fall, you proceed to obstacle four, the shelf. It is a plywood platform about six or seven feet off the floor and supported by a pipe framework. One must grab onto the shelf – not the pipe framework – and pull one’s self onto the shelf. Then one faces obstacle five, the horizontal bars. Just navigate to the middle of the gym by walking on a pipe framework with vertical supports just far enough apart to challenge your balance in between supports. Being cautious again costs precious seconds – bounding from one support to the other like a monkey is faster. Then drop back down to main floor level and obstacle six, the suspended tire. Super athletes can jump feet first through the tire and slide their upper torso through on the run. Most cadets grab the two cables suspending the tires and then thrust their legs through, costing them about five seconds. Next is obstacle seven, the balance beam. Walk the entire distance without falling off, then jump down and execute a forward roll. Fall off or do a bad roll? Start over.

Obstacle eight is hated by the vertically challenged or those with less upper body strength. It is the infamous eight-foot wall. Get over it in any way possible without touching the vertical supports on either side. Easier for a tall cadet or those unafraid of rushing the padded wall at full speed, jumping up, and getting most of one’s body over on the fly. Obstacle nine is a horizontal ladder. Putting both hands on the same rung takes too much time. Alternating hands is faster, but only if you don’t fall. You have to start over if you do, and the clock is always ticking.

Take heart; the end is in sight. Of course, the finish line is on the indoor track above, and you are down on the main floor of the gym. Enter obstacle ten, the rope climb. Make it to the red line on the rope, jump onto the platform and climb onto the track. Getting your feet on the platform without reaching the red line with your hands will cost you a 15-second penalty; don’t make it up the rope and it costs you 30 seconds – enough to fail most cadets. Then you still have to climb a rope ladder up to the track and run anyway.

Once on the track, a helpful staff member hands you a medicine ball that you proudly carry around the track for one lap. Then you carefully place the ball into a bin and pick up a baton for another lap and another careful return to a bin. Then your dust-dry lungs must attempt to scavenge enough oxygen for a partial lap at full speed to the finish line. That or discover that giving less than everything you had left – even though you were certain that you had nothing left – puts you across the finish line at one second over the course record or the company record or the passing time for the indoor obstacle course test. There are several large plastic waste receptacles off to the left for those who need them. Better luck on the re-test.

Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire

Please forward guest articles, comments and suggestions for future topics to JPhoenix@wpaog.org. You may also sign up to receive Gray Matter directly at that same email address.

Did you know that a number of previous Gray Matter essays may be found at http://www.westpointaog.org ?

Click on – The Poop Sheets – and then scroll down and click on Gray Matter e-Newsletter.

Rescuing America

Great novel, if you dare! – June 30, 2010

By Bob Carroll –

This is a great book. It is a fast-moving, action-packed novel set in 2020, when many of our current social problems, extrapolated, come to a head and are resolved by a mini-revolution, conducted by people some would call descendents of today’s tea party movement.

Fast moving, highly entertaining and scary! – July 31, 2010

By James Ellis, LTGEN, USA (Ret) –

Ernie Webb is greatly concerned about the current direction of our Country. In his opinion (and I agree) we are rapidly altering the basic principles upon which our Republic and our Constitution were founded. His book lays out a possible scenario if current trends continue. And, it demands thoughtful action for reversing this dangerous trend and for reigniting the beacon of Freedom and Hope that has always shown from America. “Rescuing America” is a fast moving, highly entertaining novel. If you are a true, patriotic American, this book will scare you mightily!

Rescuing America! We Are Taking Her Back!

The year was 2020. Middle America had had enough. Frustrated and angry at the corruption, greed and incompetence exhibited by the government and corporate America, tired of being ridiculed by the liberal press, and furious at the government’s failure to control terrorism and illegal immigration, middle America was ready to respond. Then, two distinct and terrible disasters greatly magnified all of these problems. First, there was a natural disaster of Biblical proportions. This was followed by multiple Islamic terrorist attacks. America was weakened beyond belief. The situation was critical. Middle America responded as they always have: working together. But would that be enough? Could we show enough resolve to keep our foreign enemies from attacking us? Could we in Middle America succeed in forcing our government to return to the tenets and values of our Founding Fathers? Could we become, again, a nation of laws as enumerated by the U.S. Constitution? It would be a tough fight, but do not discount the power of the American people. Once riled, we are a force with which to be reckoned! And we are riled!
The Second Amendment to Our Constitution is our insurance policy.

To Order – – http://www.amazon.com/Rescuing-America-Are-Taking-Back/dp/1453644369/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280883416&sr=1-1

Draft of proposed home page headline

CAUTION – Graduates should not mention this Web Site to High School Student Athletes. Compliance with both the letter and intent of NCAA Rules is an Academy Expectation. Questions can be resolved by contacting Ron Salvatore or his Staff at Army Athletics Association, Assistant Athletics Director – Compliance and Academics (845) 938-2576 Ron.Salvatore@usma.edu

Note – this is a Class of 1962 Web Site; it is NOT an Official United States Military Academy Web Site

Recognition of Teams

“When they first met nearly his first words were – “‘I don’t know anything about Football. Tell me something about it.” After a sentence or two he said “Let’s talk about something else.” He was a very cultured man. However, over the next two years he was to say more than once , “I will pattern my next Army Corps after the Army Team.” West Point’s 42d Superintendent came to appreciate an athlete’s subordination to team success is exactly the expectation for a graduate’s commitment to unit success.“You Have to Pay the Price” – Chapter XIV

The United States Military Academy exists for one purpose and one purpose only – to provide military officers for our Nation. Graduates are expected to have an unselfish concern for unit success ahead of one’s self.

John will take out two — Al will just have to run over the last Middie.

PURPOSE The purpose of the Army Sports Hall of Fame, located within the Kenna Hall of Army Sports, is to honor the athletes, coaches, teams, administrators and others who have brought distinction to Army athletics over its many years of existence. Those team and individual achievements deemed worthy of admittance, based on the established criteria, will be formally recognized with displays in a designated Hall of Fame area of the Kenna Hall of Army Sports, located within the Kimsey Athletic Center.

As General Patton stated

“The Army moves as a team, eats as a team, and fights as a team.”

The Class of ’62 and the Classes of the early sixties understand the importance of Teams.

In Vietnam individuals performed heroically and with great sacrifice. 58,000 dead–over 200,000 wounded. Thousands of individual awards for heroism and service (MOH, DSC, NavC, SS, etc).

But we lost! The team lost! Individuals performed extremely well–but the head coaches and the administration had the wrong strategy and play book–so we lost. Despite the tremendous effort, heroism and sacrifice the team lost.

How many medals for heroism and service would we have been willing to give back for victory. How many medals would we return to get back even a few of those 58,000 lives.

Individual efforts, achievement and heroism should be honored. But, Team Victory is the objective in any war and it should be the focus of the Army and of West Point. Out of all the hundreds of schools in America, if only one honored Team achievement it should be West Point!

Members from the Classes of the 50’s and 60’s believe it is important the Cadet Corps never be given the impression that individual accomplisment is more important than success of the unit.

We are asking Graduates to assist in establishing a suitable criteria to recognize Teams. We will be contacting the Colleges and Universities across the Nation which do recognize Teams to determine the criteria for their programs.

—– Must the success of the 2005 – 2006 Women’s Basketball Team be unknown to the Cadets of the 2019-2020 Cadet Corps?

—– Must the 6 & 0 seasons of the 1972, 1973, and 1974 150 Pound Football Teams go unrecognized?

—– Should the Corps of Cadets know that the “Class the Stars Fell On” went 9 – 0 in the Fall of 1914, beating Navy 20 – 0.

The success and National Recognition of our Alma Mater over the last several years is the result of an entire Staff and Faculty effort.

We understand West Point will probably never have another National Title. However, Colleges and Universities which do include Teams in their Hall of Fame do not require just National Titles for induction.

Below needs a lot of work

As we contact these schools to assist in developing a suitable criteria for West Point we ask that you contact the Academy to stress the importance of Team accomplishment above individual achievement in the training of the Cadet Corps
— Please go to the below web page —————————

A starting point is the Black Lion Award given to an Army Football Player each year and to Football Players throughout the Nation. Although then Award is intended to go to the person on his team – –

“who best exemplifies the character of Don Holleder: leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice, and – above all – an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself.”

There are some teams in which every member deserves such recognition. Perhaps in the near future we will have an Army Football Team in which each player is recognized by all for

“an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself”

That will be a Team in which upon Graduation every player will have earned —

“I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission? I want a West Point Football player.”

That will be a Hall of Fame Team

57’s Graduation Parade

Broke


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Museum

In 1991 The Chinese Government established the General Joseph W. Stilwell Museum. It is housed in General Stilwell’s War Time Residence, situated in the Yuzhong Region of Chongqing, and occupies an area of about 1.2 acres. It was founded in memory of Joseph W. Stilwell who gave so much for the Chinese People.

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Sons of Slum & Gravy

by Bill Mogan

Sons of Slum and Gravy chronicles the coming of age of a child of the 1950’s. William W. (Bill) Mogan shares an engaging personal story that leads him along a path to West Point and the Class of 1962. His experiences there and after graduation cause him to develop a deep and abiding respect and affection for his classmates.

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Letter to Selection Committee

We the Members of the Class of 1962 believe the Army Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee and the Superintendent should recognize the accomplishment of West Point’s Teams.

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President Kennedy


Most college graduates when asked who gave their graduation address and what did they say do not have any recollection. Well, for some unknown reason, I have a copy of the White House press release of President Kennedy’s remarks to us. Each time I read them they become more timeless. Inasmuch as we just passed the 36th anniversary of our graduation, I’m sending JFK’s remarks in their entirety. I have no idea how this came into my possession, but I thought you all might like a copy of it.

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Worth of a Class


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1976 Cheating Scandal

The following comments are by Bill McWilliams author of “A Return to Glory” which provides a detailed and complete investigation of the 1951 Cheating Scandal. Note there are 5 or 6 copies of “A Return to Glory” in Jefferson Hall – the Cadet Library

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Benny Havens


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Medal of Honor

In Honor of Academy Graduates who are Medal of Honor Recipients

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Alma Mater

We have changed our Alma Mater along with several other West Point Songs to reflect the fact that our Women Graduates have also given their lives serving this Nation. It is only right.

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2008 Commencement Address

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
“Then, I said,” “Here am I; Send me.” Isaiah, Chapter 6, verse 8.

Today we gather to recognize the cadets of the
Class of 2008, men and women who, in the spring
of 2004, answered the call of our nation, a
nation at war-, “Here am I. Send me.” This
afternoon, they will be commissioned as Second
Lieutenants. And over the next year, our Army
will send them around our Nation and around the
world to one of 80 countries where American
Soldiers are serving the cause of freedom.

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