In the military way of life, the norm of conduct of every soldier is governed by a set of well-defined regulations. Whatever is not specifically or comprehensively covered by regulations is encompassed by the customs and traditions of the service.
Here in the Academy, as in any military institutions, certain practices, extra-regulatory in nature, form the bulk of the customs and traditions sifted out from the experiences of our predecessors.
Although this set of practices possesses a certain degree of permanency, it is from time to time modified or improved upon by succeeding classes as circumstances may warrant.
The plebe traditions which are part of the Corps customs are enforced by the upperclassmen who, acting as Proletarian Guards, see to it that the fourthclassmen observe them carefully during the initial stages of their life in the Academy.
Those who are "not in the know" might be led to believe that the plebe traditions are practiced merely to harass that plebes for the enjoyment of the upperclassmen. These customs are not enforced on the plebes just for the fun of them .. behind every plebe tradition lies a constructive reason.
On the whole they are intended to imbue the newcomers with rigid discipline which cannot be learned from reading books or memorizing verbatim an accepted definition of it.
The neophytes, fresh from the ease and comfort of civilian life, have to be hardened to the rigors and hardships of a sternly regimented life in this Academy.
Plebe traditions also aim to produce in the plebe certain traits of character so highly essential in a military leader.
Take for instance the plebe tradition which requires all plebes to double time anywhere they go. Is it meant merely to tire the plebe? If that were the end in view then that tradition is unreasonable and utterly senseless.
But the real purpose behind this time honored tradition of the Corps of Cadets is to indoctrinate punctuality in the plebes and to make them appreciate the true value of time. By being on the double everytime he goes to any place, the plebe reaches his destination in the shortest possible time.
Military history is replete with examples of commanders who lost battles because they or their subordinates reached a certain designated place late. To a military man the element of time is of tremendous importance.
Plebes must of necessity learn this early in their lives. The crawling of plebes is another custom which if taken superficially might make one think that it is done to make fun of them.
But crawling has for its paramount purpose: to give plebes the correct military carriage. Their postures may be exaggerated, in fact they are, so that when the plebes become upperclassmen, the soldierly carriage becomes natural to them.
No practices which will degrade the plebes, or make them suffer indignity, humiliation, or undue hardships are countenanced by the upperclassmen. The plebes are made to follow traditions which guarantee the inviolability of their dignity and self-respect.
There is not a single plebe custom that might, even to the slightest degree, taint these priceless possessions of man.Plebe customs inculcate in the fourthclassmen, physical and moral courage, instantaneous obedience to superior orders, respect for and loyalty to superiors without being repugnantly servile.
These customs too, make a plebe take pride in himself and in his organization. They foster in him promptness, neatness, orderliness, resourcefulness, and initiative.
Plebes are trained to be hardy. They are made tough by plebe customs. Hardiness is essential in fighting men. This Academy does not envision the production of "tea-cup officers" of "dancers" or "ladies escorts" but of men who can lead troops in the field of battle.
The plebe traditions and customs certainly are in line with this policy. They have passed the acid test of time and were not found wanting. So, in fairness to all, customs and traditions must be observed with impartiality and justice.
- Know all customs, traditions, and regulations.
- Know all members of their companies by June 30, and members of the Corps by August 31.
- Know all the menu and detail of the guard and be able to recite them when called upon to do so.
- Know the shows in town by Friday noon and on noons proceeding days with Saturday evening privileges.
- Know all songs and cheers of the Academy.
- Fix their outgoing laundry bundles before tattoo Saturday evenings.
- Make distinct turns always.
- Have their haircuts before Wednesday of every week.
- Greet the upperclassmen at "take seats" in the Mess Hall and the Floor Inspector at polic call inspection. At tap inspection they say, "All Right Sir, Goodnight Sir!" or "otherwise all right, Sir; Good night, Sir!"
- Eat "square meals" at order of an upper classman
- Sleep anytime between reveille and taps.
- Fix their beds for sleeping and change to sleeping uniform within twenty minutes after tattoo, i.e. fix it within ten minutes before taps.
- Violate any regulations in the presence of an upperclassman; as any underclassman shall not violate any regulation in the presence of an upperclassman, senior to him.
- Own valuables as watches, rings, necklaces, jewelry, etc. They may own clocks.
- Say "I do not know," but "will find out."
- Plebes have breaks when specified by upperclassmen.
- Plebes can be recognized by one or more upperclassmen but this shall not be construed to mean that the upperclassman recognizing shall protect the plebe from other upperclassman; not that the plebe shall take advantage of this by always presenting himself to the upperclassman to evade other plebe duties. The plebe shall always maintain the class distinction between them.
- They are "at ease" when they are with their visitors.
- Plebes wear proper uniform whenever they leave their rooms for any purpose between reveille and taps. By proper uniform is meant uniform that is authorized by Regulations for wear outside. Bathrobes, pajamas, slippers and the like may not be worn by plebes outside of their rooms between reveille and taps.
- Plebes double time at all places upon leaving their rooms. Exceptions to this custom are:
- When excused by the surgeon from any form of physical exertion.
- When escorting visitors.
- When proceeding to parade ground under arms in full dress uniform.
- When going to and coming from mess.
- When outside camp proper.
- Except during the Christmas holidays, plebes are not allowed at Cadet hops. The first cadet hop they may attend is the Graduation Ball, on their last day of plebehood.
- Plebes are not allowed to use the banisters of stairways in any building. They use the side of the stairway away from the banisters and take the steps two at a time.
- Plebes may not watch any formation or ceremoney in which upperclassmen are taking part.
- Plebes will not look outside windows unnecessarily.
- They will stand at attention when any upperclassman enters their room.
- They will take a bath at least once a day and wash their faces before every mess formation.
- They are not allowed to talk to each other outside their rooms.
- They may not go to the toilet rooms until ten minutes after breakfast except in an emergency.
- They will say "Sir" in addressing upperclassmen. They may not ask questions of upperclassmen nor make statements to them unless permitted to do so.
- In going to company formations they will be at the place of assembly before first call.
- When "Rest" is given during any formation they execute "Parade Rest."
- They will always keep their eyes to the front when outside their rooms.
- They will not loiter at the Post Exchange, in the Barber Shop, in the sinks in Teacher's Hall, or in the Cobbler's Shop.
- The following places are "off-limits" to Plebes:
- The clubroom of any of the classes.
- The parade ground except when engaged in athletics.
- The Picnic Grove.
- In the Mess Hall, they may not use the backs of the chairs. They use only a portion of the seat.
- When finished eating, they roll up their napkins in their napkin rings and sit at attention until dismissed.
- In the Mess Hall, their feet are placed flat on the floor, their knees are held together, and exercise marked physical exertion in assuming an erect and soldierly posture.