This is Part III in a series regarding the most recent cheating incident at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the response to it, and what that says about the moral compass of the Service Academies and the Military in general…especially the senior leadership. Part II, immediately preceding this, was mostly about a widespread cheating incident itself and the actions of the Superintendent, LTG Darryl Williams that may indicate a climate not conducive to producing the kind of commissioned Officer we need to defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Many of the accused perpetrators were (and still are) members in good standing of the West Point Football team whose recent triumphs over Navy and Air Force resulted in winning the Commander In Chief’s Trophy, now somewhat tarnished by this incident. More disturbing are the decisions made by the Superintendent that appeared to give off the aura of favoritism towards athletes and/or belief in some critical race theory of equitable punishment.
As I have been working on this series, I have been contacted both publicly and privately by officers and enlisted members, both active and retired, Academy graduates and not. These contacts have truly been “Joint Service” in nature, coming from Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and even Merchant Marines. Below are a few of the comments, along with my assessments.
This first comment is from one of my Academy classmates. I’ve extracted the critical concept from two separate posts in a “conversation” we were having online. It focused on the plebe class not having “eyes on” supervision, because of a bad senior leader decision to keep them at home. From my classmate:
I agree that it was a dysfunctional decision. The cadets were far safer in the controlled environment at USMA that they were at home…But I still think this decision, right or wrong, had a significant impact on conditions that led to cheating, and must be considered separately.
And in a subsequent post:
Was there an attempt to conduct Honor Training, virtually?
What was the interaction between Plebes and their instructors, and their cadet chain of command?
This is one of things that bothered me about the actions taken after the 1976 scandal. They stopped doing take-home tests. I hated that. Tangible proof that cadets could not be trusted.
There are a couple of critical pieces here. First, is what I call the show the whole damned world weakness decision to keep young, healthy Cadets at home instead of back at the Academy because we are afraid of a disease that harms virtually no one in their age group. That alone should be grounds for investigation.
The most important aspect, however, was the idea that being unsupervised, was somehow a recipe for dishonesty. As I have mentioned previously, one of the more practical applications for an honor code, an ethical standard in the Officer Corps of the U.S. Military, is that you have to be able to trust the word of a commander…or even a newly commissioned officer at the other end of a radio or SATCOM connection.
My classmate pointed out one of the decisions made as a result of the 1976 cheating scandal at West Point. From that point, the Academy no longer gave take home (to barracks) exams. As my classmate opined in his post, since that decision, now reinforced by this particular incident, we have tangible proof that cadets could not be trusted. If we cannot trust Cadets to not cheat on a take-home exam, how the hell can we trust them at some future time, to give accurate operational reports, even if such reports might reflect badly on them…or worse, if their prevarication caused friendly casualties?
The outrage expressed to me also came from non-Army sources. Here is one from a Naval Academy graduate. A little inside baseball for everyone; the different branches talk a lot of smack about each other, especially the Academies and especially when the Commander in Chief’s Trophy is on the line. But at the end of the day, we are all on the same team. I am always happy to see a “Zoomie” arrive over my battle position, driving an A-10 Warthog. I am just as thrilled to see a Sea Stallion helicopter come to extract me from durance vile…even if it’s being driven by a “Squid.” With that said, here is a comment from one such. Note that his outrage is as great or greater than mine:
Apparently, learning not to Lie, Cheat or Steal nor tolerate those who do can take up to 4 years to learn. I don’t know if that says more about the teachers or the admissions process.
Frankly, the letter is one of “excuse” for failure to be able to select candidates and instill in them the Honor Code by the end of Plebe Summer – if not sooner. As you track the system they have created, it provides more and more excuses for cadet actions and ways to remediate them – One wonders why they can’t be taught in one day not to lie, cheat and steal and the consequences – but, of course, the consequences have been diluted significantly.
He then follows up with a very cogent question:
Does the Army have a “Willful Admission Process?” for violations of the UCMJ?
Indeed. How hard is it to train someone to not conspire with others to cheat on a take-home test? And most on-point; Are we not setting folks up for failure? The Army I served in didn’t have any, willful admission process for violations of the UCMJ, well, maybe except for plea bargains in a Court Martial. His point about the admissions process, especially where athletes are concerned is also spot on.
This, from a very good friend, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and fighter pilot, Vietnam Era.
Mike , this makes me very sad. If the Army leadership is politically indoctrinated we now have our own Red Guard. And I am not talking football.
Sad indeed…especially after you watched, nay were a part of the Reagan renaissance for the Armed Forces.
Another Naval Academy Grad and close friend notes (emphasis mine):
The perspective from USNA alumni is that we are possibly more shocked about it than West Point alumni because we know that there used to be a REAL honor code there while ours was window dressing and has been further undermined by the woke leadership at Annapolis.
A USAFA [Air Force Academy] pal has been a participant in initiating an IG inspection at Air Force for many of the same reasons (wokeness and critical race theory training associated with the football team). All three academies suffer from the effects of Obama’s lingering wokeness campaign and idiotic EOs affecting the military. Maybe the academies’ days are past because it is questionable whether any of them can be resurrected to 70s-era standards again.
Finally, he notes:
You can quote me that I rooted for Army although had I known about the Army cheating scandal beforehand (as it was covered up by your Supe), I would have rooted for a scoreless tie and a few thug wars on-field to embarrass both institutions and shine a light on the cockroaches.
Pretty bad, when a retired Navy Captain is so disgusted with the standards at his own institution, that he roots for West Point in this year’s Army-Navy game.
From another West Point Grad, a most spot-on question:
What happened to the concept that true virtue is evidenced by what you do when you think no one is watching?
What happened indeed?
I’ll leave you with this famous quote from an even more famous and respected General
Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
General Robert E. Lee
Up next in this series; What do we do about this? Stay tuned.