Jul 8, 2024

R-Day: After Action Report

Dear Classmates, Parents and family members of the Class of 2028, and Friends,

After one year supporting the Class of 2028 at US Military Academy Preparatory School, and R-Day weekend last week, the new cadets of the Class of 2028 and their families clearly know that the Class of 1978 has firmly ‘gripped hands’ with the newest members of the Long Gray Line.  This is all part of AOG’s 50th Year Affiliation Program. The Class of 1978’s presence was felt and heard early Saturday night - two evenings before R-Day at the local Hacienda Restaurant where about 30 of us assembled for dinner. There were 60-70 upper class cadre cadets who were working the Beast I Detail, including the Beast I Cadet Command Sergeant Major present in the restaurant, who performed an Army Rocket for everyone. We had them all on their feet, participating and leading Army cheers in our impromptu rally. It was a fun site to see.  It set the tone and enthusiasm for our work over the next couple of days!

The afternoon before R-Day - Sunday, June 30th, all thirty-five ‘78ers and fifteen wives attended the Ice Cream Social hosted by AOG for the Class of 2028 and their families. It was an incredible bonding experience for our classmates with the new cadet candidates of 2028, and for the new cadet candidates with each other.  It was an inspiring sight to watch and participate in!  Towards the end of the Ice Cream Social, there was a rain downpour with the new cadets huddling together under several umbrellas and a big party tent - behind AOG’s Herbert Hall. Many of us huddled with them to chat and make connections with our affiliates. The Ice Cream Social was the first time we had a chance to truly bond with the Class of 2028.  We quickly learned that every new cadet candidate was highly motivated for the journey ahead of them at West Point!  AOG’s event was an overwhelming success!

At 1800 hours that night, at Thayer Hotel, the Class of 1978 hosted a reception for the Class of 2028 and their families.  It was the first time an Old Grad class hosted such a reception for their 50thYear affiliates. Over 200 people attended, including the AOG President and his wife, Mark and Amy Biegler, ‘91. Jim Hoffman, the Class of 1978’s First Captain, provided the welcome with Frank Arduini ‘78 and Jim Ray ‘78 singing two songs.  Frank led with a song he wrote while a cadet forty-eight years ago about our own R-Day.  Then Frank and Jim sang a song together that they co-wrote only a week before the reception called ‘The Long Gray Line.’  After the reception, the attending Class of 1978 members sat down and broke bread together in the Bradley Room of Thayer Hotel.

The weather on R-Day was perfect for us Old Grads and our ladies, and the new cadets and their families. It was a cool and a bit windy day! We were present and accounted for at 0500 hours on the steps inside Ike Hall for our Class of 1978 picture.  Then, we got to literally shake hands with or high-five every new cadet, all 1,247 of them, and greet thousands of family members. Please see pictures at the various links below.  We had three husband and wife teams handing out Kleenexes to parents after the one minute goodbyes where new cadets separated from their parents. There were lots of tears of pride and admiration for their new cadet. As parents filed out the auditorium doors, they were greeted by Pete Eshbach and classmates who were handing out a tube with a Welcome Letter from Class President and 1st Captain, along with Pete’s awesome R-Day print.  For families who did not attend R-Day, please reach out to us and let us know.

Downstairs in the Boodlers Restaurant, twenty of our ‘78 team sat down and talked with family members. Their role was to answer questions about Beast Barracks, West Point, and assuring Class of 2028 family members that their daughters and sons just began an incredibly exciting and rewarding journey.  At the mid-afternoon Superintendent’s Welcome Brief to parents and family members in Ike Hall - which was packed, the Superintendent LTG Steven Gilland said that he tried to get Brooks and Dunn to be his opening act but they were booked. So instead, he got Class of 1978 singers  - Frank Arduini and Jim Ray! The duo sang their two songs and were simply amazing!  It was like old times!  They were Proud & Great ‘78! 

Now onto the August 12th March Back with the Class of 2028! We are looking to get as many of the Class of 1978 to participate. We have already filled the first 50 positions offered to the 50th Year Affiliate class for the 14 miler. Then there is open enrollment. It appears that between the fourteen mile Lake Frederick March Back and the two mile march back from the Victor Constant Ski Slope, the Class of 1978 will have over 100 marchers on August 12th. Join us and get the number higher.  All Class of 1978 marching participants are invited to attend a Lake Frederick BBQ with the Class of 2028 the day before.  That’s part of the registration form provided by AOG.  After the March Back, at Round Pond, beginning at 1300 hours, there will be a Class of 1978 Picnic.  Come one! Come all!

One final thought!  Fifty years ago today, the Class of 1978 began its 47 month journey together at West Point with R-Day - Reception Day, the first day of Beast Barracks.  On that day long ago, 1,434 of us new cadets were sworn into the US Army at Trophy Point. It was a blistering hot day as we joined the Long Gray Line.  At the time, the Vietnam War was winding down, Richard Nixon was President, and the ‘73 Oil Embargo by OPEC had taken a toll on the American economy.  Only a month into Beast Barracks, August 9th, as new cadets, we were marched into Robinson Auditorium to watch our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States, resign from office.  Fast forward five decades, the Proud & Great Class of 1978 had classmates participate in the Dessert One ‘79, Grenada Invasion ‘83, Panama Invasion ‘89, Desert Storm ‘91, Bosnian and Croatian War ‘92, the War on Terrorism ‘01-, and countless other unnamed military operations.  We are Proud & Great!  

The Class of 1978 claims on its drill role thirty-two general officers - two of which are four star generals, countless other field grade officers, a Secretary of the Army, several CEO’s in industry, a bank president, doctors, lawyers, software designers, engineers, school teachers, and a preacher.  It's all about a lifetime of service to the nation - in our own particular way!  It is from our cohort of Old Grads - members of the Class of 1978, that we ‘grip hands with the Class of 2028’ on its R-Day and the next 47 months.

As we render support to AOG and the 50th Year Affiliation Program, please take time to think about what the Class of 1928 would have shared with us if we had a 50th Year Affiliate relationship - World War II, the founding of NATO, the Korea War, the Space Race, and of course most of the Vietnam War.  Now, look forward to what we can offer the Class of 2028 with our Class’s vast experience.  So many thanks to AOG for their vision and support of this program.   See you at the Lake Frederick March Back on August 12th and later on the high ground!

We are - Proud & Great ‘78


Billy Harner

Class of 1978's R-Day Weekend Photo Album
West Point Public Affairs R-Day 2024 Flickr Pictures
West Point AOG’s Pre-R-Day Ice Cream Social Flickr Pictures
West Point AOG’s R-Day Flickr Pictures