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!