Cadets of 2016 Make the Oath
LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 4, 2012 – The new cadets of the Class of 2016 earned their shoulder boards and the right to be called VMI cadets at the New Cadet Oath Ceremony Sunday at New Market Battlefield.
Many upper-class cadet spent Sunday, and much of the previous two weeks, helping the new cadets, a class of 485 cadets, through the process, including S-5, public relations, Capt. Russell East ’13.
“They [the new cadets] are now a part of our creed. They have to live up to our creed – they have to earn their class,” he added, noting that they’ll be known in the Corps as the Class of 2013+3 until Breakout later in the academic year.
Cadets in the Class of 2016 faced a rainy Oath Day comfortably in ACUs – field duty uniform – but East, who made the charge again with the new cadets Sunday, recalled a very different Oath Day and a very different charge across the historic battlefield back in 2009, when he was a new cadet.
“It was a lot hotter than this,” he said. “We were in class dyke. It was a lot harder to run through the field in those low-quarters [shoes]. It was a heck of a sprint.”
For many cadets, Oath Day events, which take place in one of VMI’s most solemnly revered places, the battlefield on which cadets fought and died in 1864, are evocative of the commitment they make to service and endurance as VMI cadets. This is especially true, perhaps, for the seventeen 1st Class cadets who honored those who fought by marching the 80 miles from Lexington to New Market on a path similar to theirs.
“Going into it, I really didn’t know exactly what 80 miles was going to feel like,” said John Dommert, 1st Class president, who said they marched 11 miles on the first day, 26 on the second, 24, on the third, 17 on the fourth, and three on Sunday. He did it, he said, “to get an idea of what they [the New Market cadets] went through physically, because we can’t know what exactly what they went through mentally.”
The hardest challenge, he said was the 24 miles on the third day. “We were beat up from 35 before that. … Everybody reaches their wall. You look in front of you and you look behind you and everybody’s doing the same thing. … You say, ‘I’m not going to fall out.’”
Second Battalion S-7, cadet life, Lt. Kate Collins made the march as a representative of the women in the Class of 2013.
Collins, an NCAA pole vaulter who has earned academic stars, felt proud to represent her class and proud of the achievement of completing the march.
“I really had no idea what I was in store for. The first day was really rough. Waking up the next day was not fun, but my body got used to it and I overcame it.”
Collins, who as one of the 17 charged the field with the new cadets, recalled her own Oath Day in 2009.
“I remember running up that field when we were rats,” she said. Like many on this Sunday in 2012, “I felt really great having finished hell week and having been through the first week of class. I felt really happy to see my parents.”
East and Dommert both noted that it takes time for many cadets to realize the significance of Oath Day events as they mature in their cadetships. And Collins, who remembers the day so well, recalls little about the march of the 1st Class cadets:
“I don’t really remember the whole magnitude of walking 80 miles to get my shoulder boards. I remember being proud. And I think this time around I’m even prouder.”