Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Class of West Point Officers Faces a Future Marked by Uncertainty First in a Long Time Not Poised to Fight Afghan, Iraqi Rebels

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Class of West Point Officers Faces a Future Marked by Uncertainty First in a Long Time Not Poised to Fight Afghan, Iraqi Rebels

Article excerpt

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- They were fourth- and fifth-graders when terror struck on Sept. 11, 2001, and they have only hazy recollections of the day that galvanized the young men and women who filled these halls in the decade that followed.

Now, the seniors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are poised to become the first in a generation to enter a force preparing not to fight insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan but to confront shrinking budgets and a postwar identity crisis. In doing so, they will be taking the helm of Army units made up of combat- seasoned veterans.

Unlike the cadets that came before them, those in West Point's class of 2014 have learned about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as historical examples, rather than conflicts that would soon dominate their lives and careers. With graduation just months away, the students at this idyllic campus of gothic buildings on the banks of the Hudson River are wrestling with the same existential questions bedeviling Army leaders: What kind of military does the country want? And how much is it willing to spend on it?

"A lot of people want to frame this issue as if the American people, particularly politicians, want us to do more with less," said Luke Schumacher, 22, a fourth-year cadet from Indianapolis. "If that's the case, we're playing a fool's game. The fundamental challenge for our generation of officers is not learning how to do more with less but selectively determining what we're going to do and what we're going to do well."

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, has warned that steep budget cuts threaten to turn the oldest branch of the U.S. military into a hollow force unable to keep its troops properly trained and equipped. He recently took on critics who have argued that new technology has rendered large ground forces increasingly irrelevant.

West Point "firsties," as seniors here are known, enrolled shortly before President Barack Obama visited the campus and announced he was ordering a troop surge in Afghanistan. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.