West Point is nestled in alongside the Hudson River amidst thousands of trees and the distinctive architecture of the Academy’s buildings. There is an endless contradiction between the beauty of the scenery and the reality that the institution develops our future military leaders; ready to lead men and women into battle when called upon. At the intersection of this contradiction is the military police, or MPs, that must guard the restricted area that surrounds the Academy, with immaculate and wide fields that are used for combat exercises and training. With few if any unauthorized incursions onto this space, the daily challenge for the MPs is to keep their focus and attention on watching for any persons or vehicles that threaten to encroach onto Academy grounds.
It’s with this background that a cool and crisp autumn evening found two MPs simultaneously scanning the grounds and sharing stories of military training and last weekend’s NFL games, when one of the guards, eyeing the fields from the guard booth, stopped in mid-sentence and asked the other guard, “Wait, did you just see something run across the field?” The other guard, slightly older and more experienced at MP duty, tiredly replied that it must be a deer, but the younger guard, picking up his binoculars around his neck and scanning hurriedly, saw the image again and exclaimed “No. It’s a person. We have an incursion on the grounds!” Dropping his binoculars and letting them dangle around his neck, the guard picked up his radio and called in the location of the person that he saw darting across the field and hiding behind trees.
Within seconds, two jeeps loaded with army personnel and armed with machine guns scrambled from a nearby building and headed towards the field. Over his radio, the MP continued to provide the location of the person he saw hiding behind a tree to the military personnel who were driving quickly across the field. As the jeeps screeched to a halt, four guards got out and assumed a kneeling position with their weapons. Two other guards lit up the field with floodlights, and together the group cautiously approached the group of trees that this unauthorized individual was hiding behind. For all they knew, this person could be armed and dangerous, and the guards would take no chances in defending themselves or the Academy.
As the group approached the individual that they could now see coming into view, one of the guards called out “Come out from behind the trees with your hands up. You’ve entered onto restricted space of the United States Military!” The individual began moving out from behind the trees and coming into clear view, but no sooner than she did than two guards who had quietly moved behind the individual tackled the person, driving a knee into her back and quickly forcing the individual’s arms up behind the head and cuffing them. The shriek and yell that was let out by the individual cut through the otherwise quiet night and actually startled some of the guards. After some futile resistance on the ground, the person was brought to their feet and the ranking officer on the scene walked up to get a clearer view of the person and exclaimed “What the heck…?”
Susan Meyers, a suburban housewife and mother of two boys, who lived over 100 miles away in the suburbs of Long Island, stood with a dazed and disoriented look on her face, her dress and hair dirty and disheveled from being driven to the ground. But what was Susan doing so far away from home, and why had she wandered onto the restricted area of West Point Academy?