YSIP 2013 participant Matt Andonian compares his experience as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point to the lives of the cadets at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy in Armenia.
With visit to the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy in Yerevan, AGBU YSIP has given me a chance to directly compare my life as a college student in the United States to that of college students in Armenia. Interning at the Military Academy in Armenia as a former West Point cadet has given me a special opportunity to see how my education in the United States compares with the education that cadets receive in Armenia. I was expecting a large difference in the way the academies operate and very few similarities between the United States military and the military of a post-Soviet state. What I found, however, brought back a flood of memories from my freshman year and made for a few shocking revelations that revealed the seriousness of becoming a professional soldier in the Armenian Army.
When we arrived at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy in Yerevan, we headed directly to the mess hall for lunch. Understandably, the mess hall was not nearly as big as the one at West Point, which must fit 4,000 cadets at once, but the idea of groups of cadets eating together at a family style meal is the same. One of the officers with whom we had lunch also explained that the cadets are told when to begin eating and when they need to finish and leave—a short amount of time that was very similar to my meals at West Point.
As soon as we left, we were taken to the dorms at the Military Academy where the daily lives of the cadets were explained to us. We were shown the dorm rooms that the cadets slept in, which had wool blankets very similar to those issued at West Point. The beds were also meticulously made as one would expect in any military barracks. I was definitely glad that I didn’t have to share my room with as many people as the Armenian cadets do but I was expecting as much from the smaller academy here.
Everyone’s favorite part of the academy tour was the simulated gun range that we were able to use at the end of our tour. This part of the tour was a large surprise for me. I was not expecting the Armenian academy to have this kind of technology and was quite excited to be able to use it. I had used a very similar one at West Point but most of the group had never seen one before that day. Everyone took turns aiming at the black silhouettes on the screen, and I think we all did pretty well considering most of us had never done anything like it before.
As a former cadet, I am aware of the sacrifices that the members of any military make to defend their homes. The cadets at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy make a huge sacrifice while they are still cadets as well as during their future careers in the Armenian Army. The trip to the Academy helped me understand just how serious the commitment of each of these cadets is to Armenia and the gravity of the situation Armenia still finds itself in following the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. I’m thankful that the AGBU and the Armenian Army made it possible for me to visit the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy and to get this unique firsthand experience..