WEST POINT - More than 13,000 people braved the cold conditions on Saturday to witness the 215th graduating class of the United States Military Academy.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was this year’s graduation speaker. Hagel was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of Defense in February and is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. He told the graduating cadets that they must be the ones to end sexual assault in the armed forces.
"These crimes have no places in the greatest military on Earth," Hagel said.
The 1,007 graduating cadets listened to Hagel’s speech as it hit close to home. Just three days prior, a West Point sergeant was charged with secretly taking pictures and videotaping female cadets.
"You must be the generation of leaders that stop it," Hagel told them.
Following Hagel’s speech, cadets were presented with their diplomas. Almost all of the graduating cadets were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army. However, one cadet was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps and one in the U.S. Navy.
The Class of 2013 included 137 women, 55 African-Americans, 70 Asian/Pacific Islanders, 95 Hispanics and five Native Americans.
This year’s graduating class has 343 graduates that have committed to additional service obligations. Through their dedication to service in the Regular Army, these officers secured either the branch of their choice, their initial permanent duty station of choice, or the guaranteed option to further their intellectual development by attending a fully-funded, full-time graduate degree program at an institution of their choosing.