It was a weekend of friendly competition and camaraderie between the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) and the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) during the annual RMCC West Point Exchange Weekend.
“Sports in the military is very important to have that combative spirit and attitude. By integrating sports in the West Point Exchange, it allows us to do that,” said Lt. (N) Frank Genest, Officer in charge for the RMCC West Point Exchange Weekend at the RMC.
Held from Friday, Jan. 20 to Sunday, Jan. 22, the RMCC West Point Exchange Weekend is an annual event where a number of cadets from the RMC visit USMA at West Point, in New York, for a few days while a similar exchange of cadets takes place from West Point to the RMCC in Kingston.
The pinnacle of the event is the longest standing international hockey game held between these two prestigious institutions. The location of the hockey match is alternated each year between Kingston and New York.
This year the hockey event was held at West Point, meaning a majority of the other major sporting events also took place there. Close to 100 RMC cadets made the trip south of the border to participate in sports like Taekwondo, Judo, indoor rowing and a chess tournament.
The 81st hockey showdown between these two powerhouses took place on Jan. 21. The West Point Black Knights pulled ahead to claim another victory from the RMC Paladins. The Black Knights have been crowned victors 44 times now since the inception of the games.
The games trace back to 1923 and were established by Lt. Gen. Archibald McDonnell and the superintendent of West Point, Douglas MacArthur.
“In the spirit of friendships that had developed in the First World War between Canadian and American officers, they thought it would be a good idea to have their academies play against each other,” explained Genest.
While West Point and RMC battled it out on the ice rink, nearly 75 USMA cadets visited RMC for the weekend. The highlight of the weekend was the sports day, and the entire college participated in activities like flag football, broom ball, and ball hockey. They also participated in a variety of social activities to integrate the two schools.
The overall aim of the weekend is to foster ties between two allied militaries.
“The idea is that if we want to foster professional ties between our cadets and American cadets, as we are still part of NATO and still operate with them quite a bit. It basically allows us to better understand how our allies think and operate,” noted Genest.
Genest, who participated in the games as a cadet once as well, knows of many fellow soldiers who later encountered their American counterparts, which they had once battled against during the RMC West Point Exchange Weekend, and were now fighting alongside in missions in Afghanistan.
He also believes the event is beneficial for cadets in many other ways.
“They see the differences and the different attitudes. They always enjoy it. It’s always a great time,” said Genest.