Sandhurst Vs. Westpoint

#1
Just caught a channel four news broadcast about Westpoint, and it got me wondering...do people prefer the one year direct entry style of officer training like Sandhurst, or the three year degree style officer training they do at Westpoint? I know the Canadians have a Westpoint style and a Direct style, though the Direct style appears to be going out of the window. A Canadian officer once told me they tried to get rid of the three year style in favour of a Sandhurst style entry...what do people think?
 
#2
As it was explained to me, by a training officer from Westpoint, there isn't as much of an emphesis on military skills at Westpoint as at RMAS. This I believe is especially proved when the Cup is competed for.
 
#3
West Point is four years, not three and is pretty much a university with extras. Most of the warry-type training is done over the summer and once the regular school year starts the focus is very much on regular university classes- albeit most of them being tougher than at most universities- with some "character-building" stuff and phys on the side.

The fact that it is pretty much a university first can be witnessed with things like the athletic department. High school kids are recruited to play sports, much like any other US University. Many football players are exempt from things like weight limits because they would, quite literally, get killed when they went up against other teams. (We have one guy on our team that is 6'6 and is listed at 360lbs- or 25.7St and most people think that's an understatement) Furthermore, the most promising athletes can often get out of the regular commitment to the US Army if they get an offer from the NFL or NBA.

An excellent book on a Cadet's life at West Point is "Absolutely American" by David Lipsky. He's a journo from Rolling Stone who had unlimited access to the place for 4 years.
 
#4
tsar_Nikolas said:
do people prefer the one year direct entry style of officer training like Sandhurst, or the three year degree style officer training they do at Westpoint?
I guess it all depends on whether you want to be

a) A (reasonably) well-rounded, mission-command-orientated, 'buy-your-specs-and-haircut-from-a-civilian-supplier' type of officer,

or

b) A CNUT!
 
#5
Surely the longer one is "training" in a military type environment and not living in the real world or putting that training to the practical test the the more "institutionalised" and hidebound one is going to be when finaly exposed to soldiers and an uncontrolled environment? Spending three or four years learning to fend for oneself, even within the slightly cushioned university life must produce a more adaptable individual.


BTW I gather that West Point isn't the only way in, there's also some sort of Officer Candidate School, how does that work?
 
#6
West Point is, in fact, only one of a number of military universities in the USA: others include The Citadel and The Virginia Military Institute, as well as Norwich University - not strictly a "military school" in the same sense as the others, but it has a very heavy military emphasis.

These places only produce about 10% of the US Army officer corps - West Pointers are regarded as being highly disciplined/ motivated and more than a tad arrogant. "The Point" is sometimes referred to as "Prussia on the Hudson" (it's located on the River Hudson, New York State) and its graduates as "Ring Knockers" on account of their alleged habit of emphasising points in debate by knocking their class rings on the table. It should also be noted that quite a lot of West Point grads (and Citadel & VMI grads) do not proceed to a career in the Regular Army, but go on to do other things in the civilian world (business/ commerce, medicine, law, engineering, politics or whatever) whilst serving either in the Reserves or National Guard. Same applies re US Naval Academy, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy. There's also a US Coastguard Academy in Connecticut. Although you can "major" in history, political science, languages etc at W Point, there is a very heavy emphasis on applied science/ engineering (everyone has to take a minimum number of courses in maths/ science & technology) and most specialise in these areas. Citadel and VMI are more humanities/ social science orientated and grads tend to have majored in these areas.

Most (70%) of regular US Army officers are graduates of the "Reserve Officer Training Course" program (ROTC) that runs in over 200 American universities/ colleges. They study "Military Science" (mil hist, admin, tactics/ strategy etc), basic mil skills, leadership etc as an integral part of their degree courses (for which academic credit is awarded) and attend 2 intensive periods of training (typically 6-8 weeks duration) during Summer vacations, usually at end of the "Sophomore" (2nd) and "Junior" (3rd) or "Senior" (4th) years. If you commit to Regular Army service (many do not - they take ROTC courses simply out of interest/ "suck is and see" etc) after the first two years at univ (note - nearly all US degree courses last 4 years) then you get a stipend that will cover a large part of tuition fees (typically $10-20,000 a year in a public univ; $30,000 plus if private or if you're from another state!) for the rest of your course - a big incentive! Upon graduation - assuming you've successfully completed the advanced summer course - you are commissioned and then proceed directly to special-to-arm training with your chosen branch. The commitment is usually for 5 years in the regs plus similar period in reserve/ NG if you decide to leave at earliest permitted exit point. Colin Powell was a product of the ROTC program at City College, New York, so not being a "Ring Knocker" is not, contrary to received wisdom, a career foul in terms of promotion to the highest rank. ROTC programs also run for Navy, Air Force & Marine Corps. The National Guard also runs a similar program (GOLD - "Guard Officer Leadership Development") in some universities.

About 20% of regular officers are commissioned via the "Officer Candidate School". This is for serving enlisted soldiers identified as having exceptional leadership potential. Most will have served for at least 3 years (more typically 5 to 6 years) and must either have got a bachelor's degree (typically via correspondence course/ evening classes etc) or most of the credits towards one. The course is an intensive 14 weeks and about 20-30% fail it. OCS officers are generally regarded as being the best small unit leaders; even West Pointers concede this one.

As in so many other ways, it's the USMC that is most like the British Army. All potential regular officers are graduates - some from USNA Annapolis; many via the Marine ROTC program, and some recruited directly from univ without prior mil experience. Whatever their background, however, all most complete the Platoon Leader's Course at Quantico - much more akin to the Sandhurst Commissioning Course than any of the other routes of entry for officers into the US military. It's wholly military in emphasis and uses small unit infantry tactics as the medium for developing leadership etc..

So, comparing West Point with RMAS is really not meaningful - they're fundamentally different institutions with very different aims. The nearest one could have got to the West Point experience in the British Army would have been (prior to ending of undergrad courses at RMCS Shrivenham) - as a hypothetical! - something like Household Div "Brigade Squad"/ POC followed by degree course at Shrivenham interspersed with OTC type activities.

Hope that's helpful?!
 
#7
It seems to be a recurring theme, that the USMC is the foreign force most similar to the British Army.

From reading the sandhurst website, they abandoned the long course in 1992.
 
#13
I know that Annapolis you have to have a recommendation from your Senator, who is allowed to nominate a fixed number of candidates from his/her state depending on it's size/demographic. State Governors also nominate. Usually the Senatorial nominations come from scholarships and the Junior ROTC programme (similar to Welbeck CCF). I wouldn't be surprised if West Point were similar.
 
#14
I do find it scary that most US Army regular officers are commissioned after the equivalent of a Brit OTC course. BTW there are a number of different ways for USMC officers to commission but as someone said all must do some training at the OCS at Quantico, the length varies. Even Naval Academy cadets must spend one or two summers there. After commissioning all USMC officers attend the 6-month Basic School at Quantico before special-to-arm training. Marine OCS plus Basic School is probably the closest US equivalent to RMAS.

My problem with US officer training in general is that most of their training is post commissioning. does anyone else feel this is a problem?
 
#15
woopert said:
I know that Annapolis you have to have a recommendation from your Senator, who is allowed to nominate a fixed number of candidates from his/her state depending on it's size/demographic. State Governors also nominate. Usually the Senatorial nominations come from scholarships and the Junior ROTC programme (similar to Welbeck CCF). I wouldn't be surprised if West Point were similar.
I think this was at least partially true when Norm Shwartzkopf went through (read his biography a couple of years ago). He had problems as he'd been a pad's brat, and moved around with his dad most of his life so had no association with any particular state, and therefore Senator. Can't remember how he got around it though.

His descriptions of Westpoint (the use of senior cadets as "prefects" and the the honour system) made it seem more like the last few years of a boarding school (A, B and C Groups, anyone) than a college/university.
 
#16
gingwarr said:
woopert said:
I know that Annapolis you have to have a recommendation from your Senator, who is allowed to nominate a fixed number of candidates from his/her state depending on it's size/demographic. State Governors also nominate. Usually the Senatorial nominations come from scholarships and the Junior ROTC programme (similar to Welbeck CCF). I wouldn't be surprised if West Point were similar.
I think this was at least partially true when Norm Shwartzkopf went through (read his biography a couple of years ago). He had problems as he'd been a pad's brat, and moved around with his dad most of his life so had no association with any particular state, and therefore Senator. Can't remember how he got around it though.

His descriptions of Westpoint (the use of senior cadets as "prefects" and the the honour system) made it seem more like the last few years of a boarding school (A, B and C Groups, anyone) than a college/university.
If you look at the West Point website it explanis the process. Basically each Senator can nomniate a number of candidates, as can the Army Board. You go through an application process and have to demonstrate aptitude, scholastic ability, physical ability etc and you get called forward for interviews etc.

What the system lacks is RCB type testing, however as Baboon 6 says, most of the training is post commissioning, so they esentially get 4 years to look at you and decide if they want to commission you or not, THEN they train you. I'm not convinced you get the best people that way because what you end up with are 1st Lts who can get through West Point and can tell you how many gallons of water the lake holds (part of being a Plebe or 1st year Cdt is being stopped in the corridor and reciting this crap - I kid you not) and who have good SAT scores and do well academically but who as junior officers lack the benefit of intensive, continual training prior to their first command. They may well cover a cmoprehensive military training syllabus, but they do so over 4 years interspersed with academic subjects.
 
#17
gingwarr said:
An interesting point (ahaha) is that students at West Point pay no fees (or didn't when Stormin' Norm went through it).

This must also increase competition for places. Not that they're undersubscribed or anything.
Everyone is on a full scholarship at the tax payer's expense. That's only one thing that attracts students (other than the "Army of One" stuff that makes people want to join the army). There's also the matter of the education they receive being absolutely first-rate and an alumni association/old boy network that would boggle the minds of most Brits for when their term of service is up.
 
#18
Wessex_Man said:
West Point is, in fact, only one of a number of military universities in the USA: others include The Citadel and The Virginia Military Institute, as well as Norwich University - not strictly a "military school" in the same sense as the others, but it has a very heavy military emphasis.

These places only produce about 10% of the US Army officer corps - West Pointers are regarded as being highly disciplined/ motivated and more than a tad arrogant. "The Point" is sometimes referred to as "Prussia on the Hudson" (it's located on the River Hudson, New York State) and its graduates as "Ring Knockers" on account of their alleged habit of emphasising points in debate by knocking their class rings on the table. It should also be noted that quite a lot of West Point grads (and Citadel & VMI grads) do not proceed to a career in the Regular Army, but go on to do other things in the civilian world (business/ commerce, medicine, law, engineering, politics or whatever) whilst serving either in the Reserves or National Guard. Same applies re US Naval Academy, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy. There's also a US Coastguard Academy in Connecticut. Although you can "major" in history, political science, languages etc at W Point, there is a very heavy emphasis on applied science/ engineering (everyone has to take a minimum number of courses in maths/ science & technology) and most specialise in these areas. Citadel and VMI are more humanities/ social science orientated and grads tend to have majored in these areas.

Most (70%) of regular US Army officers are graduates of the "Reserve Officer Training Course" program (ROTC) that runs in over 200 American universities/ colleges. They study "Military Science" (mil hist, admin, tactics/ strategy etc), basic mil skills, leadership etc as an integral part of their degree courses (for which academic credit is awarded) and attend 2 intensive periods of training (typically 6-8 weeks duration) during Summer vacations, usually at end of the "Sophomore" (2nd) and "Junior" (3rd) or "Senior" (4th) years. If you commit to Regular Army service (many do not - they take ROTC courses simply out of interest/ "suck is and see" etc) after the first two years at univ (note - nearly all US degree courses last 4 years) then you get a stipend that will cover a large part of tuition fees (typically $10-20,000 a year in a public univ; $30,000 plus if private or if you're from another state!) for the rest of your course - a big incentive! Upon graduation - assuming you've successfully completed the advanced summer course - you are commissioned and then proceed directly to special-to-arm training with your chosen branch. The commitment is usually for 5 years in the regs plus similar period in reserve/ NG if you decide to leave at earliest permitted exit point. Colin Powell was a product of the ROTC program at City College, New York, so not being a "Ring Knocker" is not, contrary to received wisdom, a career foul in terms of promotion to the highest rank. ROTC programs also run for Navy, Air Force & Marine Corps. The National Guard also runs a similar program (GOLD - "Guard Officer Leadership Development") in some universities.

About 20% of regular officers are commissioned via the "Officer Candidate School". This is for serving enlisted soldiers identified as having exceptional leadership potential. Most will have served for at least 3 years (more typically 5 to 6 years) and must either have got a bachelor's degree (typically via correspondence course/ evening classes etc) or most of the credits towards one. The course is an intensive 14 weeks and about 20-30% fail it. OCS officers are generally regarded as being the best small unit leaders; even West Pointers concede this one.

As in so many other ways, it's the USMC that is most like the British Army. All potential regular officers are graduates - some from USNA Annapolis; many via the Marine ROTC program, and some recruited directly from univ without prior mil experience. Whatever their background, however, all most complete the Platoon Leader's Course at Quantico - much more akin to the Sandhurst Commissioning Course than any of the other routes of entry for officers into the US military. It's wholly military in emphasis and uses small unit infantry tactics as the medium for developing leadership etc..

So, comparing West Point with RMAS is really not meaningful - they're fundamentally different institutions with very different aims. The nearest one could have got to the West Point experience in the British Army would have been (prior to ending of undergrad courses at RMCS Shrivenham) - as a hypothetical! - something like Household Div "Brigade Squad"/ POC followed by degree course at Shrivenham interspersed with OTC type activities.

Hope that's helpful?!
If you attend one of the service academies, you would be expected to complete a minimum of 5 years ACTIVE service. The ROTC grads have the option of being commissioned into the Reserve or Guard. As I mentioned in my previous post, exceptions are made on rare occasions though.

There is no separate Marine ROTC program, only a Marine "Option" in the NROTC. As with the USNA, there are always around 3 applicants for every available slot. This is quite serious for those at Annapolis, because they are locked into their commitment at the end of the second year, but the final decision on their branch isn't made until the 4th year. Every year this means that guys and girls who had their hearts set on becoming one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children end up instead having to spend the next five years bobbing around on one of those big, grey floating sperm banks in a dark blue uniform.

BTW, by "locked in", I mean that after the end of the second year, they can't quit without facing a HUGE bill for their tuition (you can probably figure about $40,000 per year). They can only be booted out.
 
#19
As Wessex_Man says: you really can't compare the two. A reason not so far quoted is of course the cultural difference between the Americans and the British, which gives rise to a different starting point for each academy.

America is a nation of refugees, whereas Britain is a nation of warriors.

Americans have to believe in the truth, justice, etc, of the cause fought for (which makes them a touch fanatical when roused), whereas the the fact there is a fight going on is good enough for us.

We don't have to dislike the enemy - they just have to be the enemy. A Newsweek journo noticed this after GW1, and ended the piece with a quote from a British general: "Tommy doesn't have to get worked up to go and do his job".
 
#20
Reference training post-commissioning, thats the way the booties do it and it works fine here - if anything being commissioned gives a greater sense of responsibility. USMC officer training does seem to be the most comparable to RMAS but officer entrants must all have been to college for 3 years - they don't have true "direct entry" as we do where a (limited) number of 18 year olds join. Officer Candidate School is pretty much Pre RCB/RCB (or POC/AIB) over an extended period of time along with a bit of basic training - the USMC consider that as seleciton. Following OCS the potential officers move to Camp Barrett, also at Quantico where they undergo TBS (The Basic School), roughly equivalent to RMAS with generic skills and leadership. Following this the officers scatter dependent upon their specialisation, with infantry officers undertaking the Infantry Officers Course which is the equivalent of PCBC/PCD/ whatever it's now called?
 

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