Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last SlideNext Slide WEST POINT, N.Y. — Brady Miller has spent 16 of his 21 years competing in organized sports, with his parents looking on from the sidelines. This weekend, that run comes to an end, at the kind of competition his parents have never seen before. It’s the 51st annual Sandhurst Military Skills
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Brady Miller has spent 16 of his 21 years competing in organized sports, with his parents looking on from the sidelines. This weekend, that run comes to an end, at the kind of competition his parents have never seen before.
It’s the 51st annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the United States Military Academy, a two-day, 30-mile trail of stamina-sapping military-skills challenges that test endurance, military preparedness, leadership and unit cohesion.
And, as they have for all three of their sports-loving sons, Mike and Kerry Miller are there, in the stands.
This weekend, Brady Miller — make that Cadet Brady Miller — leads his 11-cadet Grey Squad through each challenge, putting to use the leadership he has learned in his four years at the academy, and in a lifetime of sports.
A family of 3-sport athletes
USMA Cadet Brady Miller – Sandhurst Military Skills Competition John Meore, email@example.com
Growing up in Glen Rock Brady played Little League, recreational basketball and football. Then it was on to Glen Rock High School, where — like his older brothers, Brendan and Tim — he was a three-sport athlete. It was football, basketball and baseball for Brendan and Brady; football, basketball and lacrosse for Tim.
Three boys, three sports each. That’s a lot of sideline time (and cleats, bats, balls, uniforms, sticks and training) for the Miller parents.
Brady, a soft-spoken and polite 21-year-old, said he still has a Pavlovian response when he hears his father’s distinct whistle. On Friday, when Mike whistled loudly, the cadet’s head spun in his father’s direction and the young military man beamed.
The Miller parents are athletic, too: Kerry played college basketball for the Manhattanville Valiants; Mike was on Cornell’s weight-restricted Sprint Football team and coached Brady in Glen Rock town football. Brady also played sprint football, at West Point. Much of his squad this weekend were sprint teammates.
This weekend, all that sideline time comes to a close as the youngest Miller son competes in his final student-athlete competition before next month’s graduation.
It was chilly as the Millers gathered near the academy Superintendent’s House on Friday, the start of Sandhurst and, coincidentally, Kerry’s birthday. Like all sports parents, they chatted with other families there to see their squads off at the starting line.
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Cadets — some of whom the Millers had hosted for holidays in Glen Rock when they couldn’t make it home to their families — came to give Kerry a hug and wish her a happy day.
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Cadet Brady Miller, center, from Glen Rock, N.J. talks with his squad prior to the start of the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at Unites States Military Academy at West Point on Friday, April 12, 2019. (Photo: John Meore/The Journal News)
After the hugs, things got serious as the Grey squad headed to a spot near the starting line where 54 oversized cards were laid out in a grid on the ground.
The cadets had five minutes to memorize the grid — cards with pictures of weapons, math formulas, eye charts and SpongeBob Square Pants — without taking notes. It’s the kind of attention to detail they’ll need in combat, to remember specific facts and be able to recall them later.
Then, they were off to line up, 11 cadets with one goal: to show they’re up to any challenge.
Cadet Miller surveyed a map with a knot of his squad at the starting line. Within minutes, they got the signal and sprinted into action alongside three other squads.
Like all seasoned sports dads, Mike Miller had positioned himself well down their path, to capture his son and his squad on video. He gave his cadet a big smile and a thumbs-up as he sprinted by.
49 teams, 16 from West Point
This weekend, 49 teams are competing, representing: the U.S. Military Academy; U.S. Naval Academy; U.S. Air Force Academy; U.S. Coast Guard Academy; 16 ROTC programs; and 13 international military academies, from Australia to Brazil, Canada to South Korea.
West Point has 16 squads in Sandhurst this year.
As in combat, the cadets have no idea what the course will hold. They’ve had to train for dozens of different skills, from functional fitness — workouts that test physical skills directly tied to military service — to assessing casualties to siting the enemy and calling for artillery. The competition runs from early Friday through almost all of Saturday.
In between challenges, there will be a lot of “rucking,” marching with a heavy backpack — preferably, Cadet Miller said, at speed. He doesn’t want his team to look back, after the competition is over, to discover they could have scored better had they rucked harder.
Some elements are timed: When the team circles the track at Shea Stadium with massive hex-bars laden with 240 pounds of weights, they have no idea they have 12 minutes to make as many laps as they can. They just do it until the time runs out.
The field at Shea is a sea of camo-clad cadets, virtually indistinguishable from each other. Unless you are a cadet’s parents, accustomed to picking him or her out in a crowd.
“We can tell by his walk, where he was,” Mike Miller said. “It was good to see him out there.”
As soon as the fitness test is over, the cadets begin a 90-minute ruck, up to a mountaintop small-arms range where they’ll fire pistols at targets and do what combat sometimes requires: pushing a disabled Humvee.
By the time the Grey Squad arrives, Kerry and Mike Miller, who didn’t have to ruck, will have been there for a while, chatting and reminiscing with other parents, beaming from ear to ear.
It is a graduation for them, of sorts, the end of the line on the sidelines. And they couldn’t be prouder of their son and his fellow cadets and their decision to serve.
A leadership test
Sandhurst is a tradition, with first-year plebes arriving at West Point determined one day to take part. This year, the U.S. Military Academy has 16 squads in the running. Some teams train year-round to prepare.
That was not the case with Miller’s all-senior Grey Squad, which he said was pulled together last October, sort of on a whim, with seven of his sprint football teammates, two members of the women’s swim and dive team and a manager from the women’s soccer team. Miller broached the topic and was given the green light.
“We recognize that we’re at a disadvantage, but one of the greatest things is that some of the other teams have put us under their wing and showed us the way,” he said.
Sandhurst is a test of leadership, too, said the cadet, who is weeks from graduation and plans to join the 82nd Airborne and “jump out of planes” as a ranger.
With a lifetime of speeches from coaches to fall back on, Miller is drawn to a maxim he learned when he was a sophomore at the academy.
“One of mentors told me: ‘Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I think hearing that and reflecting back on my high school coaches, the ones who I keep in touch with now are the ones who weren’t just a coach. Once football season was over, they’d come to your basketball or baseball games and ask about your family and keep in touch. Learning those things in Glen Rock, I’ll take them with me wherever I go.”
Caring doesn’t mean always going nose-to-nose, drill sergeant style.
“I’m a pretty quiet guy,” he said. “I’m not the rah-rah speech kind of person, but I try to be involved with my squad all the time, whether it’s training or their schoolwork.”
When it comes to athletes he admires, his thoughts don’t go to the NFL or NBA.
“For me, it was my brothers and all the people in the Glen Rock football glory days, like Grant Adams,” a standout receiver and kick returner who once scored five touchdowns in the first quarter of a game against Garfield. “It seems like all my memories go back there, going to games with my brothers and my dad,” he said.
Sandhurst is a competition, but it also comes with the realization that these cadets could soon be comrades in arms, collaborating in future international military engagements.
In that way, there is an international coalition at work during the competition, with teams from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and United Kingdom.
Yes, there is international camaraderie at work, said Sgt. Major Thomas Kenny, but there is still one hard and fast Army tradition that holds firm.
“There are 49 teams,” Kenny said. “If we’re 48 and Navy’s 49, we win.”
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