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Cow Year

Junior, Second-Class, Sergeant, “Cow”. By Cow year you are finally an upperclassmen, but along with the added privileges comes additional responsibilities. Your Cow year begins the summer before your third academic year, either with a summer leadership detail or an Individual Advanced Development program. The academic year then kicks off with your Affirmation Ceremony where you will commit to a career in the U.S. Army. For the next two years, your time at West Point will be focused on learning and developing as a leader of character on an individual level. 

Cow year is marked by several monumental events, including the celebration of having only 500 days left at the Academy, picking out and ordering your class ring, taking your Howitzer photo, and receiving your Cow loan. Additionally, opportunities for growth and development inside and outside of the classroom, both at the Academy and abroad, are widely available your Cow year, so it is critical to take advantage of those that interest you.

ACADEMIC Milestones of Cow Year:

This year is when you begin to dive into your chosen field of study, which will take you on your own path for the duration of your time at West Point. Additionally, there are class wide academic milestones which include: 

1. HI301 - During your Second Class year, you are required to take HI301 - History of Military Art (“Mil-Art”).  This course traces the evolution of the art of war from the Hundred Years War through the Napoleonic era to the American Civil War and the wars of the twentieth century. The class addresses the changing nature of warfare as nations adjust to social, political, economic, and technological developments. Cadets will conduct analysis that focuses on causation, the interrelationship of events as warfare evolved over the ages, operational and logistical aspects of military history, and the role of society in warfare.

2. Semester Abroad - As a Cow, you will have the opportunity to pursue a semester abroad through the Department of Foreign Languages (DFL). DFL offers cadets the opportunity to fully immerse in a foreign culture by spending a semester in one of many exciting locations studying 8 different languages. During the fall semester of your Cow year, you can compete to qualify for these programs, which are offered both fall and spring semester.

3. The SOSH Run - Every Second Class cadet is required to take International Relations (SS307). The course focuses on the value of applying different theoretical perspectives to historic cases and contemporary events in international affairs. As part of the course, all cadets must write a lengthy research paper. The assignment has developed a reputation of being so arduous, that an entire event is dedicated to the submission process. On the day the paper is due, many Cows partake in the infamous SOSH run, so named because the course is administered by the Social Sciences Department and many cadets are writing until the very last minute and have to literally run to turn it in on time. As part of the run, Cows dress up in costume, build wacky modes of transportation, or engage in over-the-top antics on their way to turn in their assignment. The event draws a large crowd of cadets hoping to catch a glimpse of the theatrics.

MILITARY Milestones of Cow Year:

During Cow and First summers, cadets are required to complete a West Point Detail and a Military Individual Advanced Development (MIAD), with an optional Special Forces Assessment School, if selected. These opportunities are provided to strengthen leadership and military skills, and assignments for many of these programs are based on class rank. Military milestones of Cow year include: 

1. MD300 - MD300 refers to your West Point Leader Detail - a requirement that all Cows or Firsties must complete in order to graduate. The details are intended to help you learn and practice the roles and functions of Army leaders while training and leading subordinates. As a Cow you will be assigned a leadership position as a non-commissioned officer for one of several summer training events that can last 4-6 weeks. Details can be in support of Cadet Basic Training, Cadet Field Training, Air Assault Training, Cadet Candidate Basic Training or the Summer Garrison Regiment. 

2. Affirmation Oath Ceremony - On the night before the first day of classes, the entire class reports to Robinson Auditorium in Thayer Hall to take the Affirmation Oath. This ceremony affirms your commitment to complete the next two years of study and your Active Duty service requirements as a U.S. Army Officer. Once you’ve affirmed, you incur an obligation to the Academy and to the U.S. Army to complete your service.

3. MS300 - This required Cow year course, called “Platoon Operations,” will further develop your knowledge of doctrinal tactical principles and general professional knowledge. The class uses the Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs) as a framework for planning and preparation. You will be challenged to apply tactical knowledge, competencies, and decision-making to solve complex situations that require critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

PHYSICAL Milestones of Cow Year:

As stated in the previous blog, every cadet is an athlete and your Cow year is no different. Here are a few of the physical milestones of your Cow year: 

1. PE360 - This course, called “Combat Applications,” is a required class led by the Department of Physical Education. The course will provide you with a comprehensive set of basic combatives skills suited for a combat scenario. You will learn to respond appropriately to aggression by utilizing proper body mechanics, skills, aggressiveness, and fear management, and will be evaluated on your ability to perform selected combative skills and exhibit the warrior ethos and fear management. 

2. Lifetime Activity - During your Cow year, you are required to enroll in one of the Department of Physical Education’s 19 different Lifetime Activities. The Upper Class Lifetime Physical Activities Program is designed to develop a foundation of skills, knowledge, and personal attributes, which will enable cadets to successfully participate in Lifetime Physical Activities, provide motivation for continued improvement, and establish a pattern of physical activity for a lifetime. Activities include combat grappling, volleyball, snowboarding, basketball, strength development, and aerobic fitness. 

3. Character in Sports Index - Every cadet at West Point receives the Character in Sports Index (CSI) grade each semester. By your Cow year you will likely be an active member of an NCAA team, a club team, or your company intramural team. Your performance on your respective team will be evaluated as part of your CSI grade. The CSI utilizes criteria based on the competitive sport’s mission of developing warrior athletes of character and teams of significance. The criteria include sportsmanship, fair play, mental toughness, perseverance, winning spirit, team player, unselfishness, coachability, positive attitude, teachable spirit and playing ability.


Visit to apply to the U.S. Military Academy, or to learn more about what it takes to join the Long Gray Line and become a leader of character as a West Point Cadet.


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