Scrolling through a list of United States Military Academy graduates, one inevitably comes across a veritable who’s-who of Army history. William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, George Patton, Benjamin O. Davis, Douglas MacArthur. The roll call could go on for a while. But, as just about anyone who has spent at least one day in the Army can tell you, graduating from West Point does not guarantee a be-all and end-all of military competence.
So we salute the crew of the M1A2 Abrams tank in U.S. Central Command’s Task Force Spartan in Kuwait who believe there are many paths to leadership by naming their tank “Academy Dropout.”
A photo of the aforementioned tank was during a live fire exercise held at the Udairi Range at Camp Buehring, Kuwait back in May of this year. And presumably, any ring knocking in its vicinity was drowned out by the boom of a 120mm smooth-bore cannon.
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But Academy Dropout is one that pokes direct fun at the soldiering life, like “ASVAB Waiver,” photographed earlier this year in Poland, saluting soldiers who just squeaked past the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Or “Article XV,” named for the Article-15 level of non-judicial punishment given out for the myriad of actions soldiers will inevitably take, but don’t want to get caught doing so.
The “Academy Dropout” tank also belongs on the list of notable people who attended but did not graduate from West Point.
Before he was writing “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe was an Army soldier who received an appointment to attend West Point. Poe, apparently, did not exactly take well to the structure and discipline he found there. According to one possibly apocryphal story, he at one point took an order to report for drill with “‘cross belts and under arms’” quite literally and showed up to formation wearing cross belts and under arms, and nothing else. After a year at West Point, Poe was discharged to follow other pursuits.
Gen. Courtney Hodges, one of the Army’s leading generals of World War II, entered with the Class of 1909. He flunked his math classes, though, and ended up enlisting as a private. Over a 43-year career, he ended up becoming the first person in the Army to rise from private to general.
And, while better known for his extensive promotion of using lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, and his calls to “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” Timothy Leary spent a few semesters as a West Point cadet.
As for the crew of Academy Dropout, rolling around in an M1A2 Abrams tank looks a hell of a lot more fun than marching around in cross belts and under arms.
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