US Military Academy SSA Greets ’18 Plebes

Plebes (or Freshman) from class 2018 join the SSA for discussions on various topics.

Plebes (or Freshman) from class 2018 join the SSA for Humanist Time discussions on various topics.

On 12 August 2014 the United States Military Academy (USMA) incoming class of 2018 conducted a 12-mile forced march from Camp Buckner to the academy. The march is the culminating event of cadet basic training where they were taught land navigation, marksmanship, and, perhaps most importantly, how to survive within the Corps of Cadets. Now the incoming plebes, freshmen for those not familiar with the West Point vernacular, prepare for the academic year but the Secular Students Alliance (SSA) has been challenging them intellectually throughout the summer. Over the past several weeks the SSA has hosted Humanist Time as an alternative to Chaplain’s Time. Traditionally during summer training every Wednesday evening is set aside by the academy for cadets to attend any of the various religious clubs that are available throughout the year. For some cadets these groups often become informal support networks during their time at the academy. Chaplain’s Time is also seen as a respite by the incoming cadets since it is the only time training is not scheduled and upper class cadets are nowhere in sight. This brief hiatus gives the plebes a chance to relax and enjoy snacks such as pizza, ice cream, and cookies. Although cadets are able to attend the various groups regardless of faith or denomination, the SSA was glad to meet the needs of those cadets not particularly inclined to attend meetings held by religiously affiliated clubs. Each SSA meeting, Humanist Time, was facilitated by a faculty member and after brief pleasantries and introductions we discussed an array of topics. The incoming plebes were actively engaged and challenged to defend their position on topics such as origins of ethics, the use of violence, morality, and military service. The diversity in perspective is evident when considering that some cadets self-identified as humanist, theist, atheist, agnostic, and Christian. Aside from the value of engaging and critiquing their peers, it helped create an atmosphere of understanding and dialogue among a very heterogeneous group. The greater discourse and open atmosphere are central components of what the SSA seeks to bring to the Corps of Cadets and USMA. With the academic year quickly approaching, the upper class cadets will assume their regular leadership roles within SSA. After all, it is a cadet club to support cadets. The SSA hopes to keep the positive momentum moving forward throughout the year as we continue to discuss Humanist ideas and seek out a larger community in the Hudson Valley Area. Written by Ezekiel Moreno, MAJ USA, Military Advisor for the USMA SSA.

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