December 14, 2017

Yes Sir; Yes Chef – The CIA-West Point Exchange Program

CIA-West Point Exchange Program og

I had the chance to teach a West Point cadet what a day in the life of a CIA student is like. Yes, that means chef uniform and all. I was gratefully matched up with a cadet named Grant Hall. Grant is in his junior year at the West Point military academy and is originally from California.

To start off the true CIA experience we had breakfast at The Egg, followed by a tour of our gorgeous campus. After lunch, it was kitchen time. Grant and I prepared a wonderful puff pastry dessert for the buffet that all 20 of us had prepared. What a wonderful day we had…but that wasn’t the end of this exchange.

Two weeks later I was shaking in my chef shoes; it was time to experience a day as a cadet, beginning with a mock reception day (“R-Day”). I was very excited to head to West Point because growing up, I was able to go to a few West Point sporting events. There was no time wasted when we arrived: R-Day had begun.

CIA-West Point Exchange Program 2

We got in line and learned our commands—“Yes Sir” or “No Sir” (just like “Yes Chef” or “No Chef”). There was a board with different phrases we had to remember, and we’d go up one at a time when called on and recite the phrases to two cadets without looking.

Arriving face to face with the cadets, I noticed they did not flinch or blink. “Up to the line new chef,” they said loudly to me as I was trying to get my shoes right up to the line. “Sir, we wear non-slip shoes, this is impossible to get right on the line,” I replied. I’m lucky those cadets thought it was funny.

After the mock R-Day, we met up with our matched cadet and got a personal tour all around campus. The history and architecture is breathtaking, right on the Hudson River.

Lunchtime at West Point was like no other experience I ever had. Before entering the dining hall all the cadets meet in the courtyard and announce all the accomplishments they have achieved. Inside the dining hall, the kitchen staff prepares a feast for 4,000 cadets! That’s a lot of food!

After a delicious lunch, we all had the honor to get a tour of the kitchen. There was equipment big enough to be used as a hot tub for four. The walk-in fridges were the size of my house; it was mouth-dropping to see what they use to produce meals every day.

Then it was guns—yes, guns. We experienced a real class the cadets have to take during their time at West Point. Not real bullets for us; instead it was a simulation hooked up to the computer. There were about nine different types of guns on the ground; you lie down and have the cadet teach you how to use it (demo time!). After the mini-lesson, it was time to put your knowledge to use by having a mission and shooting the target. We even got to teach our deans what we learned by helping them try it out.

The day sadly came to an end but the memories are something I will always cherish. I am truly blessed that I was a part of the West Point exchange program. I learned how closely related our schools are in the structure of uniform, respect, and ways we address our faculty. I hope that more students and cadets can cherish the same experience I had. GO ARMY!

By Barbara Di Paterio