AAR from SLS 2010-- advice for future SLS attendees

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by jake s, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. jake s

    jake s USMA Cadet

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    After Action Report from SLS 2010—Advice for future SLS attendees.


    I have been thinking of writing a “guide” to SLS ever since getting back. Here are some things I wish I would have known before going. Those who have been to SLS feel free to add/delete as you see fit:

    What to pack besides EVERYTHING on the packing list:

    Bring extra socks. Bring enough socks for at least 2 pairs a day plus 2-3 extra pairs. You will be up for 18 hours a day and you will need to change socks at least once when you switch between the pt uniform and your collared shirts.

    I personally wore compression shorts just about the whole week. If you are used to wearing compressions shorts for sports, then you know how helpful they are. You will have PT every morning and dodgeball almost every night so get used to switching gears really fast. Plus you can wash compression shorts in the shower, hang them up, and they’ll be dry by morning. This rule is also true for the PT shirts that you are issued. Some people brought detergent to wash the PT shirts in their sinks—I didn’t and I got by without smelling that bad compared to everyone else. YMMV.

    Make sure you have everything you will need hygiene-wise. Bring an extra towel. Plenty of shampoo, don’t forget a bar of soap/ body wash, etc.

    For military day, be prepared to throw your jeans and long sleeve t-shirt away because they’ll be nasty and covered in mud/dust. Bring an extra pair of tennis shoes for this day as well. Don’t wear a uniform for this day.

    Money for the Cadet Store/ Grant Hall is a good decision. The Cadet Store is like a college bookstore and has shirts, sweatshirts, you name it. Remember though, you get issued a lot of clothing anyway, so don’t go buy the whole store like some candidates attempted to do. Your squad leader will take you to Grant Hall in the late afternoon/night time if you ask. You can buy drinks, chips, cookies, pizza, buffalo wings, and more there. The space between meals is a long time if you are not used to being awake for 18-19 hours and you will savor the opportunity to get more food.

    Bring your cell phone! I called home almost every night. It’s nice to describe the whole day to your parents/friends/significant other—you will remember it better by summing it all up that way. You make your calls in the central area because you probably won’t get service in your room due to the stone walls. It does get chilly at night, even in June, so wear your sweatshirt when you make your calls.

    The first day:

    If you have the means, get there fairly early. One of my roommates got there before noon and got the whole first day experience—practice with the Cadet in the Red Sash, extra PT, etc. The first day is basically a mock R-Day except nowhere near as tough/demanding. The cadets will be stern and serious and you will be intimidated. If you don’t come from a military background, your eyes will get wide and you will feel like you are shaking a bit. Don’t worry, so are most other people. Just be respectful and remember that your nervousness is a source of laughter for the cadre.

    You’ll be issued a lot of different items like polo shirts, PT shirts, water bottle, drawstring backpack, and a sweatshirt. Don’t ever lose your water bottle or get caught without it because you will get smoked in order to get it back. “Play along” with all of the cadre’s tasks for you-- be loud and go for it! Don’t wear anything U.S. Army, camouflage, or West Point (or Navy or Air Force, for that matter)—you’ll be singled out and the cadre will give you extra attention.

    Most guys got away with a nice tshirt/polo shirt and athletic shorts or khaki cargo shorts. Don’t be “that guy” who on the SLS facebook page gets everyone to wear a certain color shirt—the cadre has facebook too. They probably use it more than you could dream of, and some of them do search for an SLS facebook page. Don’t post too many things about yourself on the page. Blend in. Be gray.

    The CFA:

    Practice it before you go! I cannot stress this enough. Especially practice the basketball throw. It’s awkward and practicing the technique is the only way to gain distance. Also, pull-ups are in cadence, so practice them accordingly.

    You could be like my group and do the CFA at 6am or you could do it at 1130am—it depends on which platoon you are in. I was in 1st platoon and we took it early but I had a great, really squared away squad leader who got us a peach, a “soldier fuel” bar, and some canned orange juice the night before so we could have something in our stomachs before the test. Drink a lot of water the night before the CFA and then don’t drink too much the morning of. A lot of candidates found that out the hard way.

    The morning PT is not strenuous by any stretch. If you can pass the CFA, you can handle all of the morning PT and barely break a sweat for the most part. The last morning you have PT you do take a 2 mile jog, but it’s at a 10:00 minute/mile pace.

    The food:

    You’ll eat in Ike Riverside Café or Washington Hall—I never had a bad meal while at SLS. The meals are all good and you will learn the traditions of the table from your cadre. They are very fun to perform and you will pride yourself on doing things the correct way. Ask your cadre what “killing” the carton means—it’s not technically allowed for candidates to perform but it is cool to see. Also, learn how to figure out the color of the ceiling while staring at the crest on your plate. Alas, I’m getting too detailed. You’ll see.

    On military day, you'll eat an MRE for lunch. Some are really good, some are no so good. My squad leader said avoid veggie omlette. I had veggie lasagna and it was delicious.

    The Cadre/squad leader:


    Ask as many questions as you want, but be mindful of what you ask. Don’t ask a question that’s already been asked and do your research on the admissions process, West Point, and the Army before you come. Scour the USMA website, read Absolutely Amercian, The Unforgiving Minute, The Long Gray Line, etc. and know the admissions process fairly well.

    Your squad leader will be the first cadre that will seem “human” to you—after the first day they’ll be really chill and you can ask them anything. You’ll get attached to them (and your platoon sergeant) and you will admire these people. Respect them at all times, though—You can joke with them, but also know that there is a line you do not cross. The first sergeant and the C.O. will walk throughout at different times and you will see them throughout the week. The platoon leaders do a lot of the behind-the-scenes logistics and you won’t see them as much until it is nighttime and time for dodgeball.

    Your squad leader will conduct an interview with you towards the end of the week. It is a general interview and not too in depth—it is roughly 10 minutes long. I brought a transcript and my resume for mine, and it did help. However, I don’t know of anyone else who did, so you can definitely get by without it. Know why you want to attend West Point and ask any tough questions you might have about the Army or life at West Point during this interview. Between your squad leader and your 14 other squad mates, you will have plenty of support for going through the admissions process.

    If you get the ranks mixed up you’ll be pushing! Pay attention to the cadre’s rank and show respect to your entire cadre!


    Classes:


    You will not go wrong with any of the classes, but I would personally recommend Information Technology and History. They’re all pretty interactive and will keep your attention! If you feel that you are falling asleep (You did wake up at 0530, after all) go to the back of the room and stand at parade rest. It’s what cadets do during the academic year and it shows the instructors respect. They’ll respect you for this, as well.





    Overall, you will have a lot of fun at SLS. Some of it is what you put into it you get out if it. You will recognize there are two groups of people there—those who are dead set on USMA and those who are looking to see if it is for them. SLS is a tool to decide if the West Point lifestyle is for you—not being sure the day you get there will not make you appear less in the cadre’s eyes. Keep your mind open and have a positive attitude!
     
  2. Lumberjack

    Lumberjack Member

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    This is definitely a great guide for prospective SLS attendees. I went to the second session and I was in 2nd platoon 1st squad, our experience was exactly what you described above. I had a great time, wish I was still up there haha. As far as class recommendations, I really enjoyed the electrical engineering class, we built robots (soldering and whatnot) and got to drive the EOD robots the army uses. SLS is a really good opportunity to figure out whether or not West Point is for you.
     
  3. AKH

    AKH Member

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    Future female SLS attendees: Do not bring your favorite pair of jeans if they do military day the same way next year. Borrow your boyfriends or brothers. Bring tons of extra sports bras.

    Great advice!
     
  4. mtnman17

    mtnman17 USMA Appointee 2015

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    Could this become a sticky so that it doesn't fall to the bottom? Jake did a very good job with it, but with the way this forum works, it will be long gone by next May/June when kids are wanting this information.

    Definetly agree on getting there early as possible day 1. My flight was scheduled for the latter end of the time period, and the bus we took to get to WP only left us with time to report to the cadet in the red sash and get our issued gear. We didn't get any instruction on marching (I was fine b/c of JROTC, you need the veryyyyyy basics at SLS but it made others a lot less prepared later) and we didn't do the other sample R-day stuff.

    And as Jake said, wash your shirts!!!
     
  5. jake s

    jake s USMA Cadet

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    Bump for those hoping to attend SLS 2011. It is a great experience but take it with a grain of salt-- all of the cadets I have talked to say that you should take a daily visit but preferably an overnight visit (if at all possible) to see how daily life truly is.

    If you are applying to SLS and have any questions, feel free to contact me.


    I'd recommend contacting AKH if you're a girl and want a female persective. She has a great handle of the admissions process in general and when she speaks, I listen.

    Good luck to all of those applying!
     
  6. 2015USMA

    2015USMA Member

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    I agree on the get there early part!!! Very important.
    My plane arrived on time, but we sat on the bus for almost 2 hours waiting for more people to come. Because of it, I missed out on ALL the welcome activities: learning how to march, being yelled at, etc.

    I really wanted to experience arriving and being yelled at.

    Other than that, SLS was awesome, although it took me another day to realize how to drill.

    Great experience though. :thumb:
     
  7. SVG

    SVG USMA Cadet

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    nostalgia! i miss SLS it was awesome. 3rd squad 3rd platoon. The cadre are great. Everything about it was so much fun. Military day was the best!

    One more bit of advice-- girls, leave the blowdryers and stuff at home. The entire 2nd floor got yelled at because a few girls were making everyone late because they were doing their hair...
     
  8. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    AAR from SLS 2010.....

    jake s

    Very nicely written and well thought out. You provide a good prospective from being a student. You should pat yourself on the back, for writing this.

    Thanks, RGK
     
  9. hopeo19

    hopeo19 Member

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    Just a few things I learned at SLS this past summer that might be helpful for anyone currently applying for the 2011 SLS:
    Bring a belt. You will always have your shirt tucked in, and so a belt is good for when you're wearing your khakis for class. Kind of a basic thing, but it wasn't on the packing list last year and plenty of people didn't have one.
    Help out your roommate, especially when you need to shower and change in ten minutes: Fill up their water bottle while you're filling up yours, double check each other, making sure each of you has everything they need- nametag, backpack, water bottle, etc.
    Finally, girls, I would echo everything others have said- bring TONS of sportsbras, and also bring extra hairbands, bobby pins, hair clips. You won't really have time to make your hair look fabulous, so you don't need a blow dryer, straightener, etc., just put it in a ponytail, bun, braids, or anything else that is fast and will keep it out of your face.
    And I know this has been said too, but have fun! I was surprised by how laid back SLS was, but there were still high expectations. Don't worry. Get to know your squad, other SLS-ers, and your cadre. Pay attention, get information, and ask pertinent questions if you have them. It really is a great week that will help you make your decision. If it hadn't been for SLS, I probably wouldn't have even continued the application process, but now West Point is my first choice. Good luck!
     
  10. lightfoot

    lightfoot Member

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    Great job Jake.
    As mentioned many times before, girls:
    Do not bring a hairdryer
    Bring extra sports bras and hair ties.

    To everyone:
    Learn how to get dressed quickly. One morning a girl was late getting the wall and we got dropped at 5 AM. Not a good way to start off the first full day at SLS.

    The first day might be a little scary at first, especially when you first arrive. But after the first couple of hours, you realize that the cadre is not really that scary and you will start to relax. The squad leaders are really chill. You can ask them questions and they are pretty open with you about a lot of things.

    Military training day was by far the best day at SLS. Wear nasty jeans and an old t shirt. Oh...and bring a belt. Last thing, be careful of what MRE you get. Choose wisely.

    SLS showed me that USMA is where I want to go. I was almost a 100% before I went and now I am 100% sure.
    Good Luck to all applicants!
     
  11. Szpieg

    Szpieg Member

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    Funny story, I tore my jeans from my croch down to my ankle on the bayonett course. So bring old/rugged pants!
     
  12. jake s

    jake s USMA Cadet

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    From my experience it was luck of the draw. you were in a line and they handed you whatever came next in the box. you can always trade with people though...
     
  13. lightfoot

    lightfoot Member

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    "Funny story, I tore my jeans from my croch down to my ankle on the bayonett course. So bring old/rugged pants!"

    A kid in my squad did that too! Haha.
     
  14. Szpieg

    Szpieg Member

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    Week 1 - 5th platoon - 2nd Squad?
     
  15. kfacademy

    kfacademy USMA Appointee 2017

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    Do you know when the application opens for SLS this year. The website says mid-december, but I am curious if anyone knows more specifically because I will be away during part of december.

    Also is there a dance at the end? I heard of that but I pretty sure it was for AFA SS.

    Question three the thing about standing at parade rest did people actually do that SLS or was that just a tip about being at the academy?

    Are you led by cadets? What year?

    Thanks for all the great information.
     
  16. kfacademy

    kfacademy USMA Appointee 2017

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    Oops I just found the answer to my first question on another post but also for that date are PSAT scores asked for? If so do they need to be taken in my junior year or can I submit the scores from my sophomore year? I did take it this year I just dont know if the scores get back by then. Thanks again!
     
  17. AKH

    AKH Member

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    Last year it opened on 14 Dec - we answered that one here http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?t=15694 just a few threads down. Yes you learn all the rudiments of military movements, marching, standing at attention, etc, even how to do PT. There wasn't a dance this past year but they could always have one in the future. You are led by rising cows (juniors).

    I didn't have that current years PSAT scores when I applied - I used the ones from my sophomore year and then updated my file with the new scores when I got them in January.

    :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  18. jake s

    jake s USMA Cadet

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    1.the actual opening date for SLS applications varies year to year. i checked the website every morning starting around 10 December. you can always call USMA admissions and ask what the opening date is for this year.

    2. no, there's no dance. you want to be in the army, not the chair force.

    3. you'll learn military courtesies and drill. do them. have professionalism, but be quiet about it. "quiet professional" is a great term that comes to mind.

    4. the cadets run everything except the classes you'll go to and the different briefings youll attend. your squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant will be rising cows (juniors). your platoon leaders, XO, and company commander will be rising firsties (seniors).
     
  19. d.mcknight

    d.mcknight Member

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    Definitely not at AFA SS.
     
  20. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    I was wondering, can you pick a session preference when you apply? Because based on my school's schedule I could only attend the first week.
     

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