WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Female cadets will get shower curtains while the men don't, and that was one of the few gestures of favoritism the U.S. Military Academy intended to show today to the first women to join the "Long Gray Line."
The 118 women, including six Army enlisted personnel, were among 1,475 plebes academy freshmen called to Michie Stadium as civilians to say goodbye to moms and dads and march out as cadets in the class of 1980.
West Point became the third of the nation's three big military academies to admit women this year for the first time. Female cadets entered the Air Force Academy last month and 81 female midshipmen came aboard at the Naval Academy yesterday.
West Point's women the Army says they will be cadets, not cadettes will live in the same dormitories as their male counterparts, bearing up under the same less-than-jovial commands from senior class drillmasters and eating the same dust at bivouac on the post's hillsides.
The shower curtains were one of the few touches added to the old stone buildings that will be home to the class of 1980 for the next four years. The other main change involved renovating some latrines for female occupancy.
Officials said the women probably will be grouped near their bathrooms in the dorms, but that will be the only change from the all-male days of West Point's previous 174 years.
Today's schedule included swearing-in ceremonies on the Plain, the grassy field that every spring bears the strutting of plumed and prideful cadets in the graduation march.
Also in store were what the Army called "posture pictures" photos of rows of cadets of both sexes designed to show who needs instruction in attaining the ramrod-straight posture the academy demands.
Although shorn locks on the barbershop floor have been a standing symbol of induction into the school's stern atmosphere, the on-post submission to Army clippers is no longer a required ritual.
For the first time this year, cadets of both sexes can get clipped in their hometowns as long as the finished product meets Army standards.