Cadet Perspectives on the I-81 Exchange

Article by: NCdt 26670 Katherine Silins

On Thursday, as classes let out, some cadets were surprised by the sea of grey that had invaded campus, residences and the CDH. The end of the day marked the start of the I-81 exchange between the United States Military Academy at Westpoint and RMC. This event is highly anticipated between RMC and Westpoint alike.

While both schools are military academies and have many similarities, including cadet-run boot camp (FYOP at RMC and Beast Barracks at Westpoint), a clear delineation of privileges based on years (“plebe” – first years don’t have the right to speak outside!) and creative corrective measures (at Westpoint, cadets will be assigned to walk “hours” across a courtyard in their dress uniform if they miss classes), there are still marked differences between the colleges. Much to the delight of their Canadian hosts, Westpoint cadets marvelled at the wonders that Canada had to offer. Second-class cadet Meghan Wentz updated her Facebook status to “They have a toaster here!” and received more than 20 “likes” from her American friends. Fourth-class cadet Araceli Sandoval noted at Tim Horton’s that “It’s so weird that everyone’s just going about their regular business with this blizzard going on”. The weather this weekend was not American or Canadian friendly, with cold temperatures and high winds leaving knee-deep snow drifts for cadets to wade through when travelling across campus.

The purpose of the Westpoint exchange is to encourage friendly competition between the two schools in many different areas, including debate, chess, fencing, paintball, water polo, pipes and drums, judo, and, of course, hockey. This year, the competitions were hosted here at RMC. After all of the competitions were done yesterday, RMC and Westpoint cadets made the trek over to the K-Rock centre to enjoy the longest-running competition of them all – the hockey game. Although RMC put up a good fight, in the end, the Paladins conceded a 5-2 match to the Americans.

While all in good fun, this exchange is a vital annual event to foster teamwork and camaraderie between the two service academies. American and Canadian officers work with each other on a regular basis and developing friendships and professional relationships between the students at these two schools will only help them in their future careers.

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West Point Exchange Weekend As Seen By RMCC Hosts

RMCC Band

OCdt 25936 Sarah Labrecque

During the West Point Exchange Weekend, each visiting cadet from West Point is paired up with a cadet from RMCC. These cadets share a room with their RMCC counterparts, participate in the weekend activities together, and share many memorable stories and moments together. Cadets are paired up by gender, then by year and academic program if possible. As well, cadets who are part of similar clubs will be paired up together. Second year cadet OCdt Jordan Bornholdt, from 6 Squadron, is a member of RMCC’s Pipes & Drums. He had the pleasure of sharing this year’s exchange weekend with Gabriel Beck, a second year Officer cadet who is a member of USMA’s Pipes & Drums. The two hit it off as soon as they met. They shared many stories of the similarities and differences between both military colleges. OCdt Bornholdt was surprised to learn that at West Point, first year cadets take part in a similar orientation program to FYOP, except theirs lasts all year long! Other differences for first years at West Point include doing the dry cleaning for 3rd and 4th year cadets, as well as serving them at the eating mess. On that note, Officer Cadet Beck also shared that the food at RMCC’s eating mess is much better than at West Point! On Friday evening, both took part in the Meet and Greet held at RMCC’s formal cadet mess, which was a great event that allowed socializing between cadets from both military colleges. Then Officer Cadet Beck had the chance to meet more RMCC cadets from 6 Sqn as he took part in the squadron’s Fight Night Fridays, a get-together between squadron mates to share pizza and watch UFC matches. On Saturday, they took part in the Pipes & Drums workshop and got ready for that night’s hockey game between RMCC and USMA. Before departing RMCC, Officer Cadet Beck told his RMCC host that if he could say one thing, it would be that “the people are very nice here, true to the stereotype”.

RMCC Paintball Club

OCdt 27005 Michael Davidson

Hosting a cadet from West Point was a great experience. Joshua Kay is a first year student at West Point and a member of their paintball club. Each member of the RMCC paintball club hosted a paintball player from West Point so our two teams could network and build connections, which was exactly what we did. We were both amazed by how similar our cultures, customs and traditions are. We had a lot of fun telling each other about the stereotypes of the others’ country and laughing about how wrong (or sometimes right) they are. While the West Point team did beat us on the field, I had a lot of fun playing against them and we are already planning our next time to play together. My 6 Squadron flight mates from Romeo and I made sure to treat our guest to the best time we could, including “poot-in” as Josh kept calling poutine, as well as butter tarts (which might have been the highlight of the trip for him.) We definitely made a friend we will have for the rest of our career. As Josh left he said, “thank you so much, you and the boys made me feel at home.” It was definitely an enriching experience and I would love to do it again or visit West Point in the future.