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Off to West Point

I reported to West Point on July 2nd, 1973 for what is affectionately called “Beast Barracks”. It’s an intensive 6-week indoctrination into cadet life at West Point prior to the first academic year. The first day seemed like a blur with haircuts, room assignments, uniform fittings, and intensive marching instruction that culminated in a formal marching parade to show off the 1400 new cadets from every part of the country representing the USMA Class of ’77.

The first day of the academic year in September we were all seated in a huge auditorium listening to the Dean of Academics, Brigadier General Frederick Smith. He started out instructing us to look to our left and then look to our right. He said, “One of you will not make it to graduation.” While that seemed harsh at the time, General Smith was being honest and set the expectations early on. We took over 21 academic credits per semester. We were in class from 8-4 daily and 8-12 on Saturdays followed by a full-dress parade. Every afternoon we were required to participate in an intramural activity or play on Army’s many intercollegiate sports teams. Then it was off to dinner at 5:30 pm and intense study time till lights out at 11:00 pm. We’d start a new day with breakfast at 6:00 a.m. We were required to read the daily New York Times and would be quizzed on its contents at breakfast. Mastering time management and personal discipline was critical to success at West Point. I was lucky early on to have a roommate from Pittsburgh who, after 2 years was ranked number 2 in our class academically.

Howard G. Stringert was the perfect mix of personality, brains, wit, athletic ability, and wisdom. Howard, who I called “Ace”, was there for me through my first and only academic stumble and beyond. I failed the first chemistry exam. Sensing that I was feeling overwhelmed, he said, “I won’t do the work for you, but if you put your head down and put in the time and energy, I’ll help you through this.” With his help, I ended up with a B in the course!

After 2 years, Howard left the Academy and matriculated through Allegany State University. I believe the only B he had on his college transcript was in boxing at West Point our first year. Howard and I were in the finals for our weight division and I won by split decision. Howard went on to Creighton University School of Dentistry. From Creighton, Howard completed his Orthodontic Residency at the University of Minnesota and had a successful private Orthodontic practice in Pueblo & Colorado Springs, CO.

I know it was part of God’s plan that Howard would be my roommate at West Point. Howard was the best man at our wedding and was the inspiration for my own career in Orthodontics.

USMA Class of '77 "Plebe" (Freshman) Class Picture (Can you find me?)


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