Monday, November 25, 2019

Matching officers to branches at West Point

West Point grads get assignments through new branching system
By Brandon OConnor

"During a ceremony Nov. 13, 1,089 members of the Class of 2020 at the U.S. Military Academy received their assignments for which branch of the Army they will start their careers in upon graduation.
"This year marked the first time West Point has assigned branches using the Army's new Market Model Branching System, which will be rolled out to ROTC next year. The new model paired cadets with a branch by considering how they ranked the 17 branches as it has in years past, but for the first time the commandants of each branch also had a vote in which cadets received their branch.

Following branch week in September, the cadets in the Class of 2020 locked in their branch preferences for the sixth and final time. They each ranked the branches one through 17, or one through 15 for female cadets who opted out of armor and infantry. Each cadet was also ranked as most preferred, preferred or least preferred by each branch based on their branch resumes and interviews, which cadets were given the option to take part in for the first time this year.

Before locking in their preferences, cadets were given information about how each branch ranked them as well as the results from a simulation using their fifth branch preference list which showed them where they would have been placed. The cadets then had the chance to use that information to adjust their preferences before locking them in for the final time.

Sunsdahl said they saw movement within the cadets' top four preferences following the simulation as cadets moved up the branches they had a better chance of receiving based on the commandant's feedback and moved down branches where their chances were lower.

"That was the market working, which helped branches get who they wanted as well," Sunsdahl said. "We talk cadet preference a lot, but branches got more of the people they wanted this year than they have in past years. That's where that commandant vote meant something. Now when somebody goes into a branch, the cadet wants to be there, and the branch wants them. It's a win-win."

Following the application of the matching algorithm, which was adapted from the medical residency matching program, and final adjustments made by West Point's branching board, 96% of the cadets in the class were placed into one of their top three preferences.

Overall, 80% of the class was placed into a combat arms branch, a 5% increase over last year. For the first time, cyber was considered a combat arms branch along with infantry, armor, engineer, air defense, field artillery and aviation. The 40 cyber spots, up from 25 last year, accounted for almost the entirety of the increase in combat arms spots."

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