I hope everyone is enjoying the tail end of their summers. I know my good friend Jake Fincher of NC State is. He is making it look easy and tearing it up for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League! This week, I decided to go away from the baseball and give you a little top-secret intel so don’t tell anyone.
The typical incoming college freshmen has to attend orientation, get moved into their new dorm room with mom and dad, or even take a few summer courses to get ahead on their college credits. Our freshmen take part in a little different “freshman orientation.” Every incoming West Point cadet must complete a seven week basic training. It doesn’t matter if you are a football player, a baseball player, or an academic stud. It is mandatory for all. The name for this training is BEAST Barracks.
Each cadet shows up to school in early July and from that point on, they begin to get acclimated to the West Point and Army lifestyle. During this seven week period, they will be challenged mentally and physically to do things they have never done before. Speaking from experience, it was the longest seven weeks of my life. Essentially it is a process used to transition civilians to West Point cadets. It is broken into two halves with the first half consisting of learning how to speak, act, and present yourself in a soldierly manner while the second half focuses on military tactics, weapons systems, land navigation, and other various military skills.
Each morning begins at 5:00 am with PT which is usually a 3-5 mile run. The day continues with briefings and military training. The cadets will have several opportunities to learn how to handle and fire certain weapons systems such as the M4 assault rifle, the M240B and M249 machine guns, and even the AT-4 rocket launcher. They use ranges located at West Point in order to conduct the marksmanship training. In addition, cadets will also become proficient in land navigation. There are no iPhones or GPS units. All they have is a map, protractor, and a compass as they navigate through the woods and mountains searching for specific points.
One of my most memorable experiences from BEAST was the gas chamber. During this training event we were sent inside a room with gas masks on and instructed to remove the masks as the tear-gas was released. It was an experience I will never forget but also something I never want to do again.
The NCAA coaches at West Point get their time with the cadets as well. During the seven weeks, each of the coaches are allotted time to work with their athletes. As baseball players, we appreciated this time greatly. I think it was the most I had ever wanted to see a baseball field in my entire life. It usually consisted of a few hours of batting practice and fungos but it was a much needed break from the day to day grind. It was also a time to get to know your teammates as well as the coaches.
Through and through, BEAST Barracks is great training which helps high school kids better transition into the West Point system. It is a far cry from hanging out at the pool or going to summer concerts but it is definitely well worth the time and hard work. Each cadet will come away from it having learned valuable skills but most importantly having learned what it means to be a great person with high character and values. I am very proud of the entire class of 2018 who will be finishing up their training two weeks from today and I am especially proud of our baseball guys who will be joining the Army Baseball family in just two short weeks!
Go Army, Beat Everybody