Drill Down

Corps' competition reinforces fundamentals

by Carrie Cox

Corps of Cadets

Cadet Cory Mitchell (center) led the squad that won the Jaffe Eager Squad trophy named after 1942 alumnus Jeff Jaffe. Mitchell is pictured with Maj. Gen. Randal D. Fullhart, Corps of Cadets commandant, and U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jordan Disney '14.

Months of practice precede one of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets' most intense competitions of the year. The annual Jaffe Eager Squad and Eager Individual drill competitions are held each spring to determine the best-drilled squad and individual in the corps.

Each of the 12 cadet companies field a squad of a junior cadet commander, two sophomores serving as squad leaders, and eight freshman squad members. Each cadet's uniform and rifle are inspected, and then the team conducts the marching portion of the competition.

Each company is also represented by a freshman cadet and a sophomore cadet in the Eager Individual competition. This event determines the most knowledgeable and best-drilled freshman and sophomore in the corps.

Corps of Cadets

In spring 2014, the Jaffe Eager Squad trophy was awarded to Delta Company, and the winning squad was led by Cory Mitchell, a cadet from Catawba, Virginia. Delta Company began training in January 2014 and took what Mitchell called a "football-practice-like" approach to the challenge. "We focused on the pure fundamentals of drill—marching without rifles and stationary drill—so that we could perfect the little things that are important to mastering this necessary skill set," he said.

Of course, the effort wasn't without a little humor. "Rather than focusing so much on the importance of the competition and living up to expectations, [we filled] our practices with jokes and games to break up the monotony of drill practice," Mitchell said. "I believe that helped us both gel together as a team and gain the confidence we needed to perform."

Jeff Jaffe '42

The Jaffe Eager Squad trophy is named in honor of Jeff Jaffe, a 1942 alumnus. In his freshman year, Jaffe was chosen to be a member of his company's rifle drill team, which won the corps' drill competition that year.

Between 1945 and 1990, Jaffe served as the president, chairman, and CEO of multiple candy companies, including the Chunky Corp. and the Schrafft Candy Co.

In his memoir, "How Sweet It Is," Jaffe wrote, "At Virginia Tech, the leadership training I received in the Corps of Cadets provided a most solid base for what was so important in all of my future activities."

Jaffe, who died in July 2014, created a trust to sponsor the Jaffe Eager Squad competition and to award cash prizes to each of the 11 cadets on the winning company's drill team, helping ensure that the strong tradition of the competition thrives.

"I believe that my squad mastered what Mr. Jaffe intended for this competition: to have fun, to represent your company well, and, above all, to gain confidence in high-pressure environments," Mitchell said. "Eager Squad is more than just a drill competition. It is a training environment to help prepare you for those high-pressure situations in life. The Delta Company drill squad is extremely fortunate to have been able to learn that lesson in our Eager Squad experience."

Maj. Carrie Cox (M.S. civil engineering'99) is the Corps of Cadets' executive officer.

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