|Graduates of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets leave the university with a solid understanding of the concept of the Duty pylon. These alumni go on to serve the nation, the commonwealth, and their communities for a lifetime. Roughly 75 percent serve active duty in one of the branches of the armed forces, enduring dangerous environments, long hours, and many months away from their loved ones--their sense of duty is unswerving.
Each year, some 250 new cadets arrive on campus to start their Virginia Tech experience with New Cadet Week. These first-year students arrive nine days before classes start, and after saying goodbye to their parents, they begin an intense period of learning the basics of cadet life--drill, physical fitness, and the care and wear of the uniform--and the history of the university and the importance of the Honor Code. The new cadets receive instruction on time management, study habits, and university policies, and they wake up every morning at 5:20 a.m. and are busy until lights out at 10 p.m. By the time their parents return a week later for the new cadet parade, these young men and women have undergone a remarkable change.
The force behind this important regimen is the cadet training cadre. This year, these exceptional students numbered 115 strong and represented more than 25 percent of the upperclassmen in the regiment. Cadre members left summer jobs and family and friends to come back to campus two weeks early--a week ahead of the new cadets--to prepare for and train the Class of 2012. Their only reward is a job well done. Many had already actively trained with their ROTC in summer programs, yet they came because being a member of the cadre is the most sought-after position in the junior class.
The members of this elite group started their training week with a physical fitness test because they did not expect the freshmen to do anything that they could not do. The remainder of the week was spent preparing for arrival day, learning the training policies, familiarizing themselves with the training schedule, and planning every waking moment of New Cadet Week.
When the doors to Shultz Hall opened before 8 a.m. on the day the Class of 2012 arrived, parents and students were greeted by stations of cadets ready to check them in, collect fees, assign rooms, issue books, help with financial aid appointments, and more. In just a few short hours, thanks to the cadre's preparations, the freshmen had picked up their uniforms, gotten haircuts, and begun to study their Guidon, a booklet packed with corps information and history on which they were later quizzed. A recurring comment from parents every year is that they are impressed with how well organized everything is--high praise for the outstanding organizational effort of a group of more than 100 cadets whose only prior experience was when they were on the other side of the process as freshmen.
The days are longer for cadre members--they get up before the freshmen and they go to bed after freshman lights out--but they see their training cadre task as the most important job in the regiment because they remember how they looked up to their cadre and they want to be worthy of that same respect. Long hours, hard work, no pay--and all for an important cause that these cadets see as their duty. It all starts here.
Col. Rock Roszak '71, USAF (Ret.) is the alumni director for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.