U.S. Military Academy at West Point Mission

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The USMA Mission

West Point The USMA Mission

The mission of the United States Military Academy is “to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”

The Corps of Cadets has approximately 4,400 men and women from all 50 states, territories and more than 30 foreign countries. You will play an important role in the cadets’ development through your participation in activities and events associated with the West Point community. These will go far beyond your assigned duties and will provide an enjoyable and rewarding experience for your entire family.

The History

West Point History

West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both the British and Colonial forces realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. In January 1778, elements of Gen. Samuel Parsons’ Connecticut Brigade crossed the river and climbed up to this spot. West Point has remained an active Army post since. It is, in fact, America’s oldest continuously occupied military installation.

Gen. George Washington selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications at West Point in 1778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779. Continental Soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a l00-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, despite Benedict Arnold’s treason.

Several Soldiers and legislators — including Washington, Gen. Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams — desiring to eliminate America’s wartime reliance on foreign engineers, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action because he recognized that it could have civilian as well as military benefits for the nation.

Col. Sylvanus Thayer, the “Father of the Military Academy,” served as Superintendent from l8l7-l833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. He appropriately made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were greatly involved in the planning, surveying and conceptual design of much of the nation’s initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.

After gaining experience and national recognition during the Mexican and Indian wars, West Point graduates dominated the highest ranks on both sides during the Civil War. Academy graduates, headed by generals such as Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, set high standards of military leadership for both the Union and the Confederacy.

The development of other technical schools in the post-Civil War period allowed West Point to broaden the scope of its curriculum to include more than civil engineering. Following the creation of Army post-graduate command and staff schools, the USMA came to be viewed as the first step in a continuing Army education.

In World War I, USMA graduates again distinguished themselves on the battlefield. After the war, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the intense physical demands of modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major improvements in the physical fitness and intramural athletic programs. “Every cadet an athlete” became an important goal. Additionally, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee.

Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, Henry Arnold, Mark Clark, George S. Patton, Joseph Stilwell and Jonathan Wainwright are among an impressive array of Academy graduates who met the challenges of leadership in the World War II. The postwar period again saw sweeping revisions to the West Point curriculum resulting from the dramatic developments in science and technology, the increasing need to understand other cultures and the rising level of general education in the Army.

During the Korean and Vietnam wars, Academy graduates again met the challenges of command in positions ranging from young lieutenants to senior general officers.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength of the Corps of Cadets from 2,500 to 4,400. To keep up with the growth of the Corps, a major expansion of facilities began shortly thereafter.

Although the strength of the Corps was temporarily reduced to 4,000 after the end of the Cold War, in recent years the strength has been increased to 4,400 as the nation faces the global war on terrorism.

In concert with the increasing role of minorities and women in society and the military during the past four decades, greater numbers of minorities and the first women were admitted to the Corps of Cadets. Their presence has enhanced the quality and maintained the traditional representativeness of theinstitution.

In recent decades, the USMA’s curricular structure was markedly changed to permit cadets to major in a wide range of subjects from the sciences to the humanities. With recent demands for increased cultural awareness, foreign language requirements and foreign exchange opportunities have beenexpanded.

As in the past, USMA graduates continued to meet the challenge of leadership in the Persian Gulf War and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Academy enters its third century, the institution continues to ensure that all programs and policies support the needs of the Army and nation today as well as in the foreseeable future. The Academy, with its long and rich history, remains an energetic, vibrant institution that attracts some of America’s best and brightest young men and women. It offers a challenging and comprehensive array of opportunities while retaining its enduring commitment to duty, honor and country.

The West Point Experience

The West Point Experience

The West Point Experience is designed to prepare cadets for leadership as commissioned officers on active duty in the U.S. Army. It is a 47-month process, which provides for the intellectual, military, physical, moral-ethical and social development of cadets and transforms them into leaders of character. The academy exists for no other purpose.

West Point is extremely selective, enrolling only the most promising young men and women. They are bright, eager and enthusiastic and they demonstrate a high degree of extraordinary leadership potential.

When cadets enter the Academy, they become active-duty members of the U.S. Army and take the first steps toward joining the Long Gray Line, one of the proudest traditions in the Army and in the nation. At West Point, cadets develop as leaders of character prepared to serve the Army and the country for a lifetime.

Command and Governance

West Point Command and Governance

The Superintendent, like a college president, heads USMA. The Chief of Staff is the principal executive to the Superintendent in all command matters, directing and coordinating the formation of operating policies and implementation of decisions of the Superintendent.

The Dean of the Academic Board, like a college dean of faculty, coordinates the activities of the academic departments and advises the superintendent on academic matters.

The Commandant of Cadets is the military equivalent of a dean of students, overseeing cadet government and supervising the military training of the Corps of Cadets.

The Superintendent, Dean and Commandant join the heads of academic departments; the directors of admissions, military instruction and physical education; and the medical activity commander, to form the Academic Board, which establishes standards for admission, academic performance and a wide range of other educational and administrative policies.

The faculty is composed of about 70 percent Army officers and 30 percent civilian professors. Since 1815, a Board of Visitors, similar in function to a board of trustees, has annually reviewed USMA’s curriculum, policies, and equipment and submitted recommendations to the president of the UnitedStates.

The Academic Program

West Point The Academic Program

The purpose of the Academic Program is to provide our students the intellectual foundation for service as a well-educated commissioned officer who possesses the knowledge and skills necessary for continued growth as a U.S. Army officer. In coordination with the Military and Physical programs, the Academic Program develops in cadets a professional self-concept as an officer and nurtures their competence, character and confidence to act decisively on matters of concern to the nation. The structure, content and process of education and development enables cadets to understand the interrelated roles of a commissioned officer: Soldier, servant of the nation, military professional and leader of character, the leader development process compels cadets to incorporate these roles into their own emerging professional identities.

The vision of the Academic Program is to educate and inspire adaptive leaders of character to build the Army and the nation’s future. This means West Point offers an academic program that is challenging and distinctive, with the capacity to prepare graduates to meet challenges, problems, opportunities and military threats with confidence in their abilities to accomplish their assigned missions.

Providing a broad liberal education designed to develop versatile, creative and critical thinkers helps our graduates anticipate and respond effectively to the uncertainties of a changing technological, social, political and economic world. We expect that our graduates will examine and assess the increasingly complex environment to identify new ideas and trends and imagine possible outcomes. Toward this end, the curriculum is structured to ensure a shared learning responsibility that provides our students a foundation for continued intellectual development.


There are 13 academic departments offering more than 37 majors:

  • Behavioral Sciences and Leadership
  • Chemistry and Life Science
  • Civil and Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • English and Philosophy
  • Foreign Languages
  • Geography and Environmental Engineering
  • History
  • Law
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Physics and Nuclear Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Systems Engineering

There are more than 35 research centers and research support centers at USMA. These centers, affiliated with and coordinated by the Institute for Innovation and Development, provide the infrastructure and support necessary to tackle the nation’s and the world’s most challenging problems. These research centers bring context to the classroom, are central to the vibrant and pioneering faculty, and are one way West Point connects to the Army and to the nation.

USMA students are driven, the faculty is world-class, and through these centers, scholars and scientists thrive and produce their best work. Cadets regularly win prestigious awards at national and international graduate-level conferences, the faculty hold fellowships and chairmanships in their discipline’s national organizations and their products are deployed to the Soldier.

The Military Program

West Point The Military Program

USMA’s Military Program provides an outstanding professional foundation focused on education in the American military ethic and the Army’s core values, along with training in individual and small unit leadership skills. Cadets are inspired to make a commitment to national service as an Army officer and to adopt the ideals of the seven Army values.

Cadets receive formal military education each year in subjects that prepare them to become leaders. This education is complemented by summer military training, where cadets learn basic Soldier skills, such as firing a rifle accurately, navigating in the woods with a map and compass, and rappelling off high cliffs. In addition, cadets have the opportunity to spend part of one summer assigned to a unit in the field Army. These assignments often take cadets to Europe, Korea, Alaska or Hawaii. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – cadets are afforded the privilege of leading and training junior members of the Corps of Cadets.

The Office of the Commandant of Cadets oversees all aspects of the military training and development of the corps within the context of the Military Program. This program provides a dynamic, four-year, sequential and integrated developmental process to teach, train, and inculcates the fundamental military knowledge, skills, and abilities expected of an Army officer.

The Office of the Commandant is organized with a supporting staff and separate departments to execute the Military Program. The United States Corps of Cadets staff provides administrative, logistic, and training management in support of the Corps of Cadets. The Department of Military Instruction, discussed in the following section, provides formal Military Science education and organizes the majority of military training. The Brigade Tactical Department oversees the daily activities of the cadets.


The mission of the Directorate of Cadet Activities (DCA) is to significantly enhance the development of the United States Corps of Cadets militarily, physically, academically, moral-ethically, spiritually and socially by providing organized, comprehensive and diverse programs and facilities, which provide for entertainment, extracurricular, recreational, cultural and social activities. DCA operates the Eisenhower Hall Theatre, the Cadet Restaurant, Grant Hall, the Cadet Store and the Cadet Bookstore. Within DCA, cadet publications are produced such as the award-winning Howitzer Yearbook, the West Point Calendar, Bugle Notes, the Circle in the Spiral Literary Journal and the West Point Planner. Cadet Programs sponsors weekly events such as dances and yearly traditions including Ring Weekend, Yearling Winter Weekend and Plebe-Parent Weekend. Eisenhower Hall Theatre, the East Coast’s second largest cultural arts theatre, remains the Hudson Valley’s premier theatre presenting a host of world class performances annually.

The DCA plans and organizes traditional class and Corps weekend activities. Special functions include dining-ins, dances, special events and extracurricular activities such as athletic, recreational, academic, religious, hobby, committee and Corps support clubs and activities. The DCA provides cadets and the West Point community at large with a comprehensive, diverse arts offering. The program includes classical/popular music, dance, ballet, drama, music theater and the visual arts which complement the educational experience of the USMA. The DCA also engages in the sale of food, beverages and food catering services to support the Corps of Cadets. The West Point Club has partnered with the DCA for catering services for all non-cadet related events and is the entry point for all catering questions. Finally, the DCA manages and operates the USMA Cadet Store and Bookstore.

The Physical Program

West Point The Physical Program

The Physical Program is focused upon the physically demanding requirements of an Army officer. It endeavors to develop in cadets the ability to maintain personal and unit fitness, fosters the warrior spirit, builds an appreciation for teamwork and inspires the will to win. Specific program activities include physical education classes, regular fitness testing and competitive athletics.

The athletic program at West Point is respected throughout the nation. It includes more than 25 intercollegiate teams for men and women. There are also competitive club and intramural sports programs in which cadet companies establish competitive rivalries. The Army football teams attract national interest by playing teams from across the country. There are also the traditional encounters against Air Force and Navy. Army basketball, wrestling, hockey, track, baseball, soccer and lacrosse have gained their share of regional and national recognition. The rifle team is a perennial finalist in NCAAcompetition.


The mission of the Office of the Directorate of Intercollegiate Athletics (ODIA) is to provide an extraordinary Division I athletic experience that develops leaders of character committed to the values of duty, honor and country.

The goals of the athletic department, which sponsors more than 25 varsity sports, are to recruit and develop scholar-athletes who lead the Corps; compete and win at the highest level; beat Navy and Air Force; adhere to department of the Army, NCAA, conference and Academy rules, regulations and policies; and affect changes in legislation, policy and regulations that improve performance.

The sports offered by ODIA include: baseball; football; softball; men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, track and field, lacrosse, rugby, swimming and diving; golf; gymnastics; rifle; wrestling; volleyball; and sprint football.

For tickets, call 877-TIX-ARMY or visit www.GoArmyWestPoint.com. For recruiting questions, see the staff directory at www.GoArmyWestPoint.com.

Character Development

West Point Character Development

Character development is central to the 47-month West Point experience and is explicitly mandated by the academy’s mission statement. The emphasis on personal character is to support the USMA motto – “Duty, Honor, Country” – and the ideals of the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. A powerful means of influencing character development is the day-to-day interaction with USMA staff and faculty members, who set high standards for ethical conduct, but the academy also relies upon several formal developmental means.

In the Military Program, cadets inevitably experience a wide variety of ethical dilemmas as they perform their duties as leaders and as subordinates. These dilemmas represent opportunities to make decisions that will shape their individual value systems and, potentially, the value systems of their peers. Officer and NCO supervision affords the cadets the opportunity to make ethical choices under the guidance and mentorship of experienced, professional Soldiers. The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at West Point has oversight of the instruction of Army values and the professional military ethic as well as the two programs that highlight the academy’s core values: honor and respect.


The William E. Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic educates, trains and inspires leaders of character in the Corps of Cadets through the development, coordination and integration of the Professional Military Ethic in the curriculum and activities at West Point. The center’s core functions lie in five key areas: the Cadet Character Development Program, MX400 (Officership), the Cadet Honor Code and System, the Cadet Respect Program, and Cadets Against Sexual Harassment and Assault.

The Military Academy founded the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic in 1998 as center of excellence to promote the military ethic. William E. Simon, a patriotic businessman, avid sportsman and generous philanthropist, provided a grant to establish the center.

US Military Academy Preparotory School

West Point USMAPS

Located in the vicinity of Washington Gate at West Point, New York, the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS), also known as West Point Prep or simply the Prep School, was formally established by Gen. Maxwell Taylor in 1946. The history of prepping Soldiers for West Point, however, goes back to 1916 when Congress enacted legislation authorizing appointments for Soldiers to attend West Point.

Today, USMAPS exists as an avenue of opportunity for a select group of Soldiers and civilian aspirants to attend the West Point. The Prep School continues to provide focused academic, military and physical instruction in a moral-ethical military environment to prepare, motivate and inspire candidates for admission to and graduation from the Academy.

USMAPS is primarily an academic institution where Soldiers and students from diverse backgrounds are rigorously trained in preparation for the challenges of West Point. It is also a military school with a career focus that develops the foundations of the professional and physical attributes needed for growth as an officer in the U.S. Army.

USMAPS opened its doors at the West Point Campus in the summer of 2011, having been at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey since 1975.

West Point Association of Graduates

West Point Association of Graduates

The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) is the alumni association of the U.S. Military Academy. Its mission is to serve West Point and its graduates. A nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation, its philanthropic pursuits maintain a margin of excellence for cadets attending the academy.

The WPAOG offices are in Herbert Hall on Mills Road, just south of Lusk Reservoir. In addition to housing the WPAOG staff operations, there is a gift store (open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday) and West Point cadets, staff and faculty receive a 10 percent discount. The Great Hall is available for rental for promotions, awards, retirements and other functions. For more information, visit www.WestPointAOG.org, call 845-446-1500 or stop by.

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