Behind Rook Recognition lies a lot of planning by leaders

Throughout the years, Norwich University has seen Rook Class Recognition change in many ways. Recognition for the rooks serves as the culmination of 18 weeks of training to achieve the requirements, standards, and privilege required to earn the title of Cadet. These recognition ceremonies can range in location, time, day, and the events leading up to it.

Keeping to tradition, people outside of Norwich are kept fairly in the dark about what actually happens during the ceremony. Even fewer people actually know the painstaking planning that goes into Recognition itself.

The planning for Recognition usually takes about couple of months to finalize. According to the Regimental S3, Steve Thomas, 21, a criminal justice major from Southport, N.C, communication is essential for planning the ceremony and events.

Traditionally, the Rook Performance Challenge, the culminating event for rook training, and Recognition are held on separate days on the Super Bowl weekend. However, a scheduling conflict occurred when the Super Bowl party was scheduled for the same time as the ceremony in Plumley Armory.

“There was only two options, we either do it at 1830 [Saturday] or we had to do it at 2200 [Sunday],” said Thomas. “The Cadet Colonel did not want to do it in Shapiro again,” the location of last year’s ceremony.

The plans were then finalized about a week prior to the ceremony that Recognition would be held in Plumley on that Saturday prior to the Super Bowl to help maintain the tradition of previous classes.

“The ceremony itself went very well, based off the views of the recruits and commandants I talked to,” said Thomas. “It was more symbolic than last year, with all the upperclassmen above you banging their rings on the railing, and a bigger attendance.”

In the days leading up to Recognition and the Rook Performance Challenge, Thomas had met with rook leadership to discuss the plans. Upperclassmen that work with rooks, like Kevin Seery, 20, a history major, from Long Island, N.Y., sat in briefings and rehearsals to ensure everything had gone as planned.

“Thomas] showed us how everything was going to happen a week prior, then the following Friday, we had a finalized briefing,” said Seery. “We obviously had a plan written down, however it is always different during rehearsals when you have actual bodies.”

“We had OPORDs and CONOPs ready to go for both the Performance Challenge and Recognition to show us how things were going to go,” said Seery.

OPORDs are short for Operations Orders which are a written-out plan used in the military to conduct any sort of event. CONOPs are similar, except much more brief and usually require detailed graphics.

But for all of the success from the weekend, a number of communication issues plagued the planning on process on all organizational levels.

“Recognition was briefed a week later than when we initially planned, but it didn’t seem to make too much of a difference,” said Thomas. “The lack of communication once it hit the CSMs (Command Sergeant Major) and Battalion Commanders, it seemed to stop,” said Thomas.

Thomas explained that the lower level personnel, like the staff sergeants and platoon sergeants, should have been briefed fully on the plan for both Recognition and the Rook Performance Challenge.

“Either the Company Commanders never did their part by briefing the lower levels, or higher up didn’t do theirs,” said Thomas. “One case was that a company didn’t get briefed until the night prior.”

Thomas said he thought that communication should be improved in the future in order for events to run smoothly. He also said he felt it was important for all the leaders involved to know what is going on and who is briefing whom.

One of the Commandants, Craig Billings, Technical Non-Commissioned Officer for 4th Battalion, witnessed his first Recognition at Norwich University and said he thought it went well overall.

“It was different for sure, not what I expected, I expected more of a ceremony,” said Billings. “But I did like it, it was pretty cool.”

Billings explained that it was still a successful event, despite the rooks pre-existing knowledge of what was going to happen during the ceremony. “I know it was supposed to be a surprise, but I had a feeling a majority [of freshmen] knew it was coming.”

Rooks like Caleb Roberts, 19, a history and psychology double major, from Norman, Okla., seemed content with the events that took place that day.

“Our company commander told us it was pushed back two weeks, then we realized it was a trick,” said Roberts. “It was kind of funny to see the Cadre lined up ready to go, but funny in the sense that it was about to get real.”

“It was a quick adrenaline rush, knowing what was about to happen,” said Roberts. “While it felt good, I feel like it should have been pushed back, because some rooks just weren’t ready yet. I did like the ceremony overall, and I did like how they still kept it somewhat private to the outside world.”

Roberts explained that the ceremony was a memorable moment for him, which was Thomas’ initial goal for Recognition and the Rook Performance Challenge.

Roberts also said he felt there were some rooks who “didn’t deserve it yet” and needed additional training, such as passing the fitness and standard knowledge tests.

But others like Billings expressed the view that the Rook training process is too long, in his opinion.

“If it’s just supposed to be initial entry training, [requirements and training] to become a Cadet can be taught in shorter time,” said Billings.

Billings also expressed his disappointment in the behavior of some of the upperclassmen at the ceremony. “I thought they were disrespectful, I wish upperclassmen remembered what it was like as a Rook and the special moment it was supposed to be,” said Billings.

“I think their (behavior) was because they may have been treated like that in the past, I noticed that is a common trend around here,” said Billings. One example was that during the speeches given by upperclassmen leaders, the upperclassmen surrounding the area kept interrupting and making unnecessary noise.

“In the future, I hope the upperclassmen are a little more respectful, I know they are only supposed to say ‘No’ to the Rooks twice then ‘Yes’ the third time they do push-ups, but they kept saying ‘No’ then finally booed the Rooks, which is very disrespectful,” said Billings.

Thomas also mentioned that there also needs to be consideration for the guest speakers at Recognition. He explained that the guest speaker this year, Barry White, an alum from the class of 1970, wrote a letter to the school expressing that there needs to be more events scheduled by the alumni office between the alumni and rooks.

“He wasn’t really complaining, but expressed his concern that the Rooks didn’t really know him, and there needs to be more emphasis on the connection between alumni classes and current Rook classes,” said Thomas.

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