It’s been a rough semester for the Class of 2014. Second semester is always a bit of a slog, what with the Dark Ages hitting in full force until March, schoolwork piling up beyond reason, and the training calendar filling up faster than we can keep track of. But Spring 2012 has dealt my class an atypically harsh blow – a test of our ability to maintain our standards of integrity, leadership, and resolve through hard times. It’s a test we’ve clearly struggled to pass, with grave results.
As the semester dawned back in January, we returned to school to see a number of our classmates sent home from CGA permanently for misconduct; namely the use of synthetic marijuana. It was sharp blow right at the heart of our class’s spirit. Around that same time last year, we were going through Mock Boards, readying ourselves for real 4/c Boards, going through 101st Night, and beginning to earn the first of our privileges. That same time last year was a time of coming together, of triumph and pride for 2014. We were positive beyond any doubt that we were the best class the Academy had ever seen…but that confidence, rather than deteriorating into arrogance, only fueled our work ethic and forward momentum. This year seems an ironic turnaround, and heartbreak. As we watched our classmates depart in January, the Class of 2014 was struck with uncertainty and doubt. We know we are bound to the Core Values, the Cadet Regulations, and all the other codes of conduct that guide us through our Academy training; thus, we know that our classmates who committed grievous conduct offenses legitimately had to be disenrolled. Yet, looking at the people we had to lose from “Team 2014,” it’s hard not to think, “But…they’re such good people! They made a mistake, but they still could have become fantastic officers in the long run…”
Of course, like the troopers we are, our class took the hit, mourned our losses, and quickly began to heal and try to move on. The Class Council took great initiative in reviving class morale and involvement by spearheading a project to make our 3/c Formal unforgettable. And the results were fantastic. 2014ers not only conducted themselves excellently and showed that we truly were “a Class with class” but also kept the evening full of energy and good-spirited fun. From the formal recognition and thanking of CAPT O’Connor at the dinner, to the inclusion of the Conn College Class Council in the evening, to the welcoming of guests from outside, to the innovation and creativity that went into planning the event as a whole, 3/c Formal seemed to prove once and for all: the Class of 2014 really had its head and its heart in the right place.
And then, April rolled around. Then, 4/c Boards rolled around…
As 3/c, our role in the 4/c Indoctrination Boards process is to train the 4/c to ensure that they have adequate knowledge to pass their 10-question, oral indoc examination at the end of the semester. The Classes of 2014 and 2015 had been working well together since early in the semester to prepare, with 3/c quizzing and reviewing with the 4/c in their divisions regularly, and some cadets even taking initiative to run group study sessions the night before Mock Boards or indoc quizzes. All seemed to be going smoothly. Both Classes went into the first round of Boards on April 14th excited and confident…
But then, scandal broke out. Someone got caught cheating on Boards. In fact…a lot of people got caught cheating on Boards.
At first, word got out that the cheating was primarily within the Class of 2015. Rumors started going around…that one of the 4/c who had already taken their Board went down to the wardroom to “tip off” their classmates who still waited for their exams. Allegedly a note card of the questions and answers on the exam was passed around. We of the Class of 2014 were struck with sympathy for the majority of the 4/c, who would undoubtedly suffer and lose the results of their hard work due to the mistakes of a few of their classmates. But then further developments to the story came to light…the cheating wasn’t limited to the 4/c. The Class of 2014 had aided them. A number of 3/c, having already accompanied their division 4/c through Boards, also returned to the wardroom to “quiz” other 4/c on the precise questions they would be asked in their Board. The sympathy we, as 3/c, had felt turned to shame. We were implicated in the cheating scandal as well. We too were the guilty party.
It’s seemingly unthinkable that an incidence of cheating could be this widespread at CGA – isn’t Honor supposed to be one of our Core Values? While we all recognize that it was not the majority of either 2014 or 2015 that was involved – in fact, it was a distinct minority of each class that even so much as bore witness to the occurrence – that these select few were able to cause such a disturbance in the development of our classes was both disheartening and disturbing. It shows a failure of teamwork. It shows a failure of integrity. It shows a failure of leadership. At the same time last year that we experienced our greatest triumph – the completion of Challenge of the Guardian and the winning of full carry-on as a class – we now face three weeks of restriction as a class in retribution for our serious breach of the honor code. And more daunting than the punishment, we face a new challenge – how do we address this lapse in the Class of 2014’s progress? How do we come together again as a team to correct this mistake?
What I think we must recognize, first off, is that a single failure of teamwork, a single failure of integrity, and even a single failure of leadership by no means represents in insurmountable failure overall. We must address each shortcoming as an isolated incident – one that we can reflect upon, learn from, use as an example in the future, but not one that we should carry with us as a burden throughout our cadet careers. The incident represents a failure – but we, as a class, are not a failure. Perhaps our confidence coming out of our 4/c year was just a bit too high – we have learned, through this semester, that we are not beyond reproach. We are not angels, or automatons, or saints, or machines – we are humans (still fairly young humans at that), and if we let our guard down, we will make mistakes. Our confidence – our overconfidence? – has been shaken, toppled even. It’s time to build it back up on a stronger foundation than we originally laid down, a foundation of experience, wisdom, prudence, and uprightness.
As we go into 2/c Summer, I think that the Class of 2014 is, in a peculiar way, uniquely prepared for the leadership challenges we will face as cadre. We know what it is like, and what it takes, to succeed as a team; yet, we also know what it is like, and how deceptively easy it can be, to fail as a team. We can use that knowledge and pass it on to the Class of 2016 so that hopefully they can experience the same glory of our triumphs without the woes of our failures. I know the Class of 2014 is up to the job. We’ve risen as a team, we’ve fallen as a team, time and again. It’s time to rise once more – and this time, for good.
More about Jessie.