Defense Secretary tells West Point cadets they’re ready

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told U.S. Military Academy cadets Saturday they were graduating during “exceptionally tough circumstances” but that West Point prepared them to face the extraordinary threats from pandemics to terrorism.

Associated Press

May 22, 2021, 3:31 PM

Updated 1,057 days ago

Share:

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told U.S. Military Academy cadets Saturday they were graduating during “exceptionally tough circumstances” but that West Point prepared them to face the extraordinary threats from pandemics to terrorism.
Austin spoke to about 1,000 cadets becoming U.S. Army second lieutenants in a ceremony held with pandemic precautions at West Point’s football stadium. Austin, a 1975 graduate of West Point, recalled his own years at the academy as he told graduates their West Point training will keep them on course.
“You’re watching as America’s longest war winds down. And you’re seeing technology change the character of war itself. And even as big and rising powers jostle and compete, you’re seeing new threats from pandemics to terrorism to cyber weapons. And you’re seeing those threats race across borders like a gale,” said Austin, the nation’s first Black defense secretary.
“I might, I just might, have a bit of insight into what you’re facing: a democracy under strain, economic fallout, painful issues of racism and discrimination, social tensions and the end of a long and controversial war,” said Austin. “Well, that all sounds pretty familiar to those of us in the Class of 1975.”
West Point’s graduation ceremony returned to Michie Stadium a year after the pandemic prompted a change in venue. Last year, then-President Donald Trump spoke to graduates sitting spaced out on the academy’s nearby parade field.
Trump’s appearance was criticized as a political move that put the graduates at risk, though the Army said the cadets had to return to campus anyway for final medical checks, equipment and training.
All guests at the ceremony this year were required to provide either a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination.
Graduating cadets were spaced 3 feet (1 meter) apart on the field. Each graduate was provided with six tickets, instead of 10, which allowed spacing between different families in the stands of the stadium.
“Looking out at all you, I see the vanguard of a generation. I see patriotic, committed young people coming of age at a hinge in history who grew up never knowing anything other than a nation at war,” Austin said.
The modified ceremony capped an unusual year at West Point in which COVID-19 forced changes in how the military trained and educated more than 4,000 cadets. West Point also endured fallout from a cheating scandal in which dozens of freshmen were accused of cheating on an online calculus exam in May 2020.
“Probably the biggest challenge that I faced that is unique to this year was leading through COVID,” said Cadet Reilly McGinnis, first captain of Corps of Cadets, before commencement.
As the highest ranking cadet, McGinnis had to explain to her classmates the reasons behind pandemic-related rules, such as why seniors’ weekend passes to leave West Point were temporarily restricted.
“There were definitely some negatives in that. But also it opened up the opportunity for us to really come closer as a Corps and spend a lot of time together building cohesive teams we always talk about,” McGinnis said earlier this week. “Just getting to know our classmates, spending time with them on the weekends instead of scattering all across the country, going on pass.”
(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


More from News 12
1:36
Long Island fire departments hold recruitment events amid decline in enrollment

Long Island fire departments hold recruitment events amid decline in enrollment

2:19
Strong thunderstorm threat looms for Sunday night on Long Island

Strong thunderstorm threat looms for Sunday night on Long Island

0:36
Long Island residents participate in Oyster Bay beach and harbor cleanup

Long Island residents participate in Oyster Bay beach and harbor cleanup

0:32
Police: Car overturns following crash on LIE in Brentwood

Police: Car overturns following crash on LIE in Brentwood

0:24
Prosecutors: Central Islip man indicted for killing Bay Shore teen during attempted robbery

Prosecutors: Central Islip man indicted for killing Bay Shore teen during attempted robbery

1:46
Lynbrook PBA donates ‘communication board’ to school playground

Lynbrook PBA donates ‘communication board’ to school playground

1:57
7 motorized scooters stolen from Williston Park garage; thieves contacted victim offering to sell them back

7 motorized scooters stolen from Williston Park garage; thieves contacted victim offering to sell them back

1:35
CDC: Measles could lose 'elimination status' amid uptick across the U.S.

CDC: Measles could lose 'elimination status' amid uptick across the U.S.

1:51
Dozens come out to exhibit to purchase art pieces depicting scenic North Shore

Dozens come out to exhibit to purchase art pieces depicting scenic North Shore

0:26
Shirley man pleads guilty to murder, setting victim's body on fire

Shirley man pleads guilty to murder, setting victim's body on fire

0:20
Freeport photographer accused of forcibly touching teen at Lindenhurst studio

Freeport photographer accused of forcibly touching teen at Lindenhurst studio

0:41
Judge dismisses Blakeman's lawsuit against AG's office connected to transgender athlete ban

Judge dismisses Blakeman's lawsuit against AG's office connected to transgender athlete ban

0:22
Officials: Fire breaks out at home near Wyandanch High School

Officials: Fire breaks out at home near Wyandanch High School

0:28
Police: Yonkers man charged for Old Westbury gas station robbery from nearly a year ago

Police: Yonkers man charged for Old Westbury gas station robbery from nearly a year ago

0:32
Beloved Franklin Square principal returns to Polk Street School following unexplained leave of absence

Beloved Franklin Square principal returns to Polk Street School following unexplained leave of absence

0:44
AG James announces over $1M settlement with Northwell Health for misleading COVID-19 patients

AG James announces over $1M settlement with Northwell Health for misleading COVID-19 patients

1:19
Authorities: Woman injured after shots fired into home in Mastic Beach

Authorities: Woman injured after shots fired into home in Mastic Beach

0:47
Long Island Restaurant Week: Lake View Grill, Legends, Dimon Estate

Long Island Restaurant Week: Lake View Grill, Legends, Dimon Estate

1:12
The East End: Take a tour of the The Shoppes at East Wind

The East End: Take a tour of the The Shoppes at East Wind

Guide: Long Island Public Golf Courses

Guide: Long Island Public Golf Courses