Army Cadets Train across the Globe

Cadet Hannah Gillan Poses with a group of students in Vietnam.

Hannah Gillian ’19 taught English at the Military Science Academy in Vietnam as part of the U.S. Army’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program over the summer.—Photo courtesy of Hannah Gillian.

LEXINGTON, Va., Aug. 25, 2017—While summer is a break for some VMI cadets, many of those commissioning spent their summer to completing specialized training in locations across the globe.

According to Lt. Col. John Brown, senior military science instructor, the Institute sent 150 third-class cadets to Army ROTC Advanced Camp and 65 first- and second-class cadets to Basic Camp, in addition to a number of specialized schools for summer training.

“These special schools help our cadets become better leaders,” Brown said.

This year, the Institute was offered a seat at the Jungle Operations Training course at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Andrew Vaccaro ’18 was awarded that seat.

Answering questions during his training at the Jungle Operations Training Center “Lightning Academy,” Vaccaro said he wanted to challenge himself in a different and extreme manner.

“It is interesting to interact with actual Army guys who do this for a living. There are even special forces teams, Navy SEALs, and Rangers who come through to prepare for deployment to jungle regions,” he said.

His training entailed everything from hasty rappels, waterborne operations, survival, and tracking, to military operations, land navigation, and platoon missions.

Vaccaro said he will bring back the knowledge he learned to expand on the fundamentals of fighting in various environments and use it as well in his future platoon.

“It is an honor to have this rare opportunity and [it] provides an unforgettable experience,” he said.

Cullen Godbold ’20 completed a Master Fitness Training course this summer to learn how to serve as a physical trainer in a small unit setting.

“My initial interest in [Master Fitness Training] had to do with its potential to give me a better understanding of the Army as a whole, particularly since it will provide me with an opportunity to interact at some level with both junior and senior [non-commissioned officers] throughout the course,” Godbold said.

He was also attracted to the uniqueness of the program, as each senior military academy only sends one cadet a summer, he said.

Godbold considers himself fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend this training, especially after only one year in Army ROTC.

“The course itself will better prepare me to train soldiers in my platoon upon commissioning,” he said.

Hannah Gillan ’19 spent her summer completing two missions, one in Vietnam for the Army’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program, and the second mission at the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

For the language program, Gillan taught English at the Military Science Academy in Hanoi, where she spent three weeks teaching civilians, military cadets, and officers.

“I was able to fully immerse myself in the Vietnamese culture, all while I was learning more about the government, history, and lifestyle of citizens there. This ‘soft diplomacy’ mission was a good way for the United States to better its relationship with Vietnam, which is important seeing as Vietnam plays a vital role in international affairs,” she said.

Gillan added it is important for her as a future officer in the Army to not only know how to develop relationships with fellow soldiers but with people of different backgrounds.

Airborne School was also part of Gillan’s goal to be a paratrooper, a goal from before she contracted with the Army.

“It has required a lot of dedication and so far has been extremely challenging both mentally and physically,” she said.

By the end of her time at Fort Benning, Gillan earned her “jump wings” and completed five successful jumps from military aircraft at 1,250 feet.

“So far it has been one of the tougher courses that I have participated in, but it will all be worth it once I am airborne-qualified. It has been an eye-opening and tough week so far, and I already cannot wait to jump,” Gillan said during her training.

-Ashlie Walter


VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders