Tuesday, July 18, 2006

White Tornado

About halfway through Beast, on a Sunday afternoon, new cadets are granted quarters’ visitation privileges for the first time. In groups of three or four, new cadets are matched up with specific families of officers or senior enlisted soldiers who live on post in government quarters. It is a chance to visit a “home” where real people live, and relax for a few hours. Get away from the barracks and the upperclassmen and Beast. And socialize. And, most importantly, EAT.

I remember there being LOTS of Doritos and homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies and Coke. It was like dying and going to heaven. We stuffed ourselves ‘til we couldn’t stuff any more in.

We stuffed ourselves partly because we were starving. The upperclassmen hardly let us eat at mealtimes, and we weren’t allowed any pogey bait. Plus, we were under constant stress and were burning up a ton of calories to boot. (Males of this age group eat loads of food anyway, even when they get three square meals a day. But I can tell you we female cadets were enjoying every moment of this orgasmic snack fest as well!)

We hadn’t had ANY junk food since before Beast and who knew when we might get some again. And then, in the end, we stuffed ourselves because who knew when we might get to eat again period.

Little did we know -- naïve, unsuspecting fools that we were -- of a time-honored West Point phenomenon known as… the White Tornado.

We had to return to the barracks from quarters’ visitation in time for Sunday evening dinner. None of us was in the least bit hungry, but mealtime during Beast rarely had very much to do with food and eating, anyway. All of our meals during Beast were mandatory. We had dinner formation and then marched into the Mess Hall for dinner. The menu was Virginia ham slices, baked sweet potatoes, and green beans. Nothing great about that. We didn’t care in the least if the upperclassmen did not let us eat even one bite after we had gotten our fill of sugar and junk and soda.

Oh, how we woefully underestimated the upperclassmen and the level of sadism that West Point often tended to bring out, especially under the guise of “tradition.”

As soon as we were seated, the upperclassmen informed us that we were in for a “real” treat. They said they hoped we had enjoyed our plebe privileges and that we had gotten our fill of junk food. But… they hoped we weren’t too full. Because tonight was a… WHITE TORNADO!!!

That meant we had to eat EVERYTHING on the tables. Right now!!! Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up! There could be NO leftovers. Not only did we have to eat all the ham, all the sweet potatoes, and all the green beans, we also had to consume all the condiments that happened to be on the table as well. They asked for volunteers to take “silver bullets,” which meant new cadets had to down huge spoonfuls of peanut butter, and someone at each table had to “validate” the hot sauce – i.e., drink the entire bottle of Tabasco.

All hell had broken loose in the Mess Hall. There were no rules, no manners, just a bunch of crazed new cadets eating like wild hogs. Upperclassmen were yelling at us, telling us to eat more, go faster, faster, faster. Quick! We were running out of time. One new cadet at my table was instructed to eat the entire tray of sweet potatoes. Which he did. He then proceeded to puke them all right back up, into the stainless steel serving tray he held between his two hands.

I was horrified. This was disgusting and sadistic and totally grossed me out. A lot of the male new cadets seemed to really be getting into it, regardless of how not-hungry they might be. It was like a dare, a game. They would shovel all this food in, by God! Or die trying. I, on the other hand, was scared shitless. I had enough control issues with food as it was. The last thing I wanted was be FORCED to eat food I did not want to eat. I silently vowed that NO ONE was going to make me eat anything I didn’t want to eat. Thankfully, the entire Mess Hall was such an out of control zoo and male new cadets were volunteering left and right to eat the most outrageous things that no one paid much attention to little old me.

I thought that the upperclassmen forcing us to eat when they knew we were all full was even worse than not letting us eat when we were hungry. It was sick and perverted. And wrong. Using food as a means of hazing was wrong. This was not funny. It was not fun. It was gross.

White Tornadoes were not “officially” sanctioned, of course. After our Beast, they were officially banned. One of my classmates was relieved of his Company Command three years later when he authorized a White Tornado for the new cadets in his unit. And he was a good guy. Not at all a sadist or a jerk. So, why did he let them do it?

White Tornadoes were seen as a hallowed tradition, a right of passage for Cadet Basic Training. If you didn’t experience a White Tornado during your Beast, then you somehow had a lesser experience. You hadn’t really had a “real” Beast Barracks. You had “gotten over.” I have no idea when White Tornadoes originated or how long they went on and were a “tradition.” West Point is full of all sorts of weird “traditions,” some more whacked out than others. And in my opinion, White Tornadoes were one of the more whacked out traditions.

The Corps has” is an expression Old Grads use to describe the experiences of younger classes. From their perspectives, standards have eased considerably and cadets these days have things much easier than they ever did. Old Grads are always convinced that the place is more or less going to hell in a handbasket. The Corps has… gotten easier, lost it, gone to the dogs, been overrun by pussies and, even worse, women. Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!


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