A Look at VMI's Next Cadet Leaders

Newest leaders of the VMI Corps of Cadets pose for a photo following the rank announcement ceremony at the military college in Virginia.

LEXINGTON, Va, March 25, 2024—Virginia Military Institute recently announced ranks for the 185th Regiment for the 2024-25 academic year. 

Brian M. Pritchard was named first captain and regimental commander (RCO), the highest-ranking position a cadet can hold. He chose to come to VMI because he wanted to attend a challenging college that provides structure and discipline. He has been serving Company I as operations sergeant this year, and was cadre corporal last year. He applied for the position of RCO because he cares about the people at VMI, and wants to serve them any way he can. “I want to have a positive impact on VMI that leaves it a better place than how I found it,” he said. Pritchard is the son of Mike and Michelle Pritchard of Thornton, Colorado. He is an alumnus of Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas. Upon graduating from VMI, he will commission into the Marine Corps.

Justice J. Rozic, who has been named regimental executive officer (XO), also plans on commissioning into the Marine Corps. He is the son of Clayton and Kelly Rozic from Greenbackville, Virginia, and was homeschooled. He chose VMI because he heard it was the hardest and most intense military school in the country. He applied for XO because he cares about the Rat Line and the impact it makes on future cadets. “I want to help give the best experience possible to the next Rat Mass, and leave a positive impact on VMI,” he said. Positions he held in past years include Company D cadre corporal and 3rd Battalion sergeant major. He was also a counselor during the Summer Transition Program for the past two summers. He is a member of the VMI Fly Fishing Club, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. 

Carter H. Wasser has been named regimental chief of staff (COS). As COS, she plans to implement goal-oriented progression of the eight staffs within the Corps, while strengthening the self-confidence, problem solving skills, and collaboration of its members. She chose to attend VMI because of its accredited civil and environmental engineering program, to be able to compete in Division I athletics, and to best prepare for commissioning into the military. In addition, VMI is the only college she felt challenged her to improve her skills as a leader and offer her the chance to be part of an extremely unique community. Wasser’s most memorable experience at VMI is Ring Figure, where her grandfather placed her class ring on her finger. “My ring is a reminder of the strength, motivation, and support my family has provided me throughout my life, specifically in my cadetship,” she shared. Wasser is the daughter of Derek and Felica Wasser of King George, Virginia, where she graduated from King George High School. After graduating, she plans to commission into the U.S. Army either in aviation or engineering.
Rachel J. Roberson has been named 1st Battalion commander. A graduate of Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia, Roberson knew she wanted a career in the military, but wasn’t familiar with VMI until it was almost too late to submit her application. In fact, she had no idea what the Rat Line was until the night before Matriculation Day. “VMI is the most challenging place to be, and every day I choose to be here because I know, in the end, I will have done everything possible to maximize my potential at a time when many others my age have chosen the opposite. There is no other place that could prepare me, and demand more out of me academically, mentally, emotionally, and physically as VMI does every day,” Roberson shared. “I am so lucky and beyond excited to lead, incorporate new ideas, and uphold VMI standards. I am blessed to be given this position and will work my hardest to ensure it is done in the best way possible,” she said. In her new position, her ultimate goal is to assist incoming rats in reaching heights they never thought possible. Roberson is the daughter of Robin Shores, and Steve and Linda Roberson. She is from Kent Island, Maryland, and plans to commission into the Army after graduation.

Nicholas G. Hemstreet has been named 2nd Battalion commander. He came to VMI as a transfer student looking for a unique and challenging college experience. “At the time I applied, I felt VMI could provide me with a challenging experience both mentally and physically, along with life lessons that I could take with me after I graduate,” said Hemstreet. He applied for the position of commander because he wants to continue guiding the Corps in the right direction. “I believe the Class of 2024 laid a good foundation for our class, and I want to build off their success. I want to empower the company commanders in my battalion and allow them to grow their own company identities. I also plan to mentor the Class of 2026 to prepare them to take the reins for their 1st Class year. During ‘hell week’ last August, I observed how far my BRs and I have come from being rats. It feels like yesterday we were running through the arch for the first time, and now we are getting ready to take command,” he shared. Hemstreet is part of the VMI Coast Guard AUP, a member of the VMI Ducks Unlimited Club, and a member of the Cadet Superintendent Advisory Board. His parents are Tim and Pam Hemstreet of Leesburg, where he attended Heritage High School. He plans to commission into the U.S. Coast Guard after graduation.  

Melina K. Bulger, a female member of the boxing club, has been named 3rd Battalion commander. When researching colleges, Bulger initially looked for a school that would do the best job preparing her to enter the Marine Corps, but only learned about VMI from a Marine Corps ROTC pamphlet. She was won over by the camaraderie, the BR spirit, the Honor Code, and VMI values. She is the daughter of Bo and Amanda Bulger of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina. She sites her mother as one of her biggest role models. “My mother has been a huge part of my journey before and during VMI, constantly encouraging and supporting me through every struggle and triumph,” she said. A memorable VMI event she experienced was serving as cadre corporal for Company E during Breakout. “It was an incredible experience to see all the work of the cadre team paying off as the Class of 2026 completed their culminating event,” she shared. Bulger is a graduate of Fuquay Varina High School. She will commission into the Marine Corps upon graduating VMI. 

Connor D. Cherry was named Company A commander. From Mooresville, North Carolina, Cherry is a graduate of Lake Norman High School, and the son of John and Lydia Cherry. He chose to attend VMI for two reasons: to play NCAA Division I soccer and to pursue a career in the military following graduation. “I've always wanted to serve my country, whether through law enforcement or the military, and I felt VMI was the best choice to mold me into the person I wanted to become,” he said. His father and grandparents have been important influences in his life, demonstrating the values a man should hold as he enters adulthood, and the importance of being a good father and husband. Cherry stated he will always cherish memories of spending time with his roommates. “I love those guys. They are always there for me when I need support, and vice-versa. I wouldn't trade the world for the opportunity to be with them,” he said. Upon graduating, he will commission into the U.S. Army.

Tristen J. Stower has been named Company B commander. He applied for the position because he wants to give back to his company and VMI, and wants to make sure future cadets have a great experience. “I want to continue the Institute’s tradition within ‘Bravo’ and keep its culture strong,” he said. In prior years he held the positions of cadre corporal, and first sergeant of Company B. Stower credits his parents, Jeff and Morgan Stower, for encouraging and positively influencing him. He is from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and attended Courtland High School in nearby Spotsylvania Courthouse. Upon graduating, he will commission into the Marine Corps.     

Cate F. Dowden has been named Company C commander. She applied for the position because she wanted to provide an active role in the development of new cadets, and provide them with the same leadership experience and support she received. “I am excited to have the privilege of mentoring the rats and cadets in my company, and to further develop the relationships I’ve already built with the members of my company. Over my time here, I have become confident that VMI is where I was always supposed to be, and I feel blessed to have been offered the opportunity to flourish here,” said Dowden. She holds countless memories of VMI, but one that stands out was the hike up House Mountain as a rat. “I remember getting to the top and hearing my CO, Garrett Johnson ’22, share the quote, ‘this too shall pass.’ He told us that while this served as a reminder that tough times don’t stick around forever, it also means that the good times are bound to leave too. He urged us to truly live in the moment and not take the good times for granted, which is something that has stayed in the back of my mind ever since,” she shared. Dowden is the daughter of Kurt and Trish Dowden, whom she says are her biggest role models. “My dad has always been the one who has pushed me to be better in everything, while also reminding me that my best effort is always enough. My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader, keeping me focused on why I am at VMI.” Her hometown is Purcellville, Virginia, where she attended Loudoun Valley High School. After graduation, she will commission into the U.S. Air Force. 

Coy J. Mattson, from Spotsylvania, Virginia, was named Company D commander. “I applied for the position because I saw an opportunity to better myself as a leader, and to take the valuable lessons I have learned into the fleet upon commissioning. More importantly, I want to help transform those who seek a rigorous and prosperous training environment here at VMI,” he said. Mattson wants to continue the legacy of professionalism for which Company D is known, and to retain the Garnett Andrews Cup, awarded to the company scoring highest in drills, ceremonies, and general efficiency as a military unit. Mattson’s role models are his parents, Tech. Sgt. Barbara O’Gara and Master Sgt. Jeffrey Mattson, as they both served in the military and offered their son many valuable life lessons. He also credited his dyke, Alex Duncan ’22, for giving him helpful advice on how to navigate the challenging environment at VMI. Mattson shared a humorous event during his rat year. “I found a live turtle during Rat Challenge and hid it inside my shirt. Everyone in my company thought I was crazy, but they also wanted to see if our cadre would catch me. I passed our usual inspection before marching down to supper by sucking in my stomach. After supper we formed up outside, and I was the first person in line. All eyes were on me—and the turtle. I was caught! The attention and bonding experience were well worth it though,” he laughed. The turtle was gently placed back into the wild to share its own version of the story. Mattson is an alumnus of Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg. After graduation, he will commission into the U.S. Navy, and hopes to become a helicopter pilot.    

Jonah M. Jurack was named Company E commander. He applied for the position because many of his brother rats approached him and told him he would be a great fit. “Additionally, I believe I possess the leadership qualities to guide the company in the right direction. My goals are to establish a professional Rat Line, and to improve the standards and conduct of the Old Corps within the company,” he said. Jurack currently serves as First Platoon sergeant, and Honor Court assistant prosecutor. In addition, he is in the Institute honors program, serves as an academic coach for Spanish and international studies at the Miller Academic Center, is a member of the VMI Navigators Bible study, and leads a barracks Bible study. His parents, Peter James (P.J.) and Kaaren Jurack of Manassas, Virginia, are his role models, as are his scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster of his former Boy Scout troop, who were both Army Rangers. He graduated from Charles J. Colgan High School, and is majoring in international studies, and minoring in Spanish, Arabic, and national security. He plans to commission into the U.S. Army after graduation. 

Aaron T. Metz has been named Company F commander. He has many goals for his role next year. “The most important to me is to allow the people who hold rank within my company to exercise their leadership while I watch over them and provide guidance. One of the best aspects of VMI is that it allows cadets to lead and influence others. I want those who hold rank in my company to do just that, and learn more about their leadership styles, what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. Metz is also involved with the Rugby club, the Jiu-Jitsu club, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. One of his favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Metz is the son of Brian and Kathryn Metz of Winchester, Virginia. He is a graduate of Sherando High School in Stephens City. After graduating from VMI, he will commission into the U.S. Marine Corps, a goal he has held since a young child.  
Caroline M. Lassalle has been named Company G commander. She applied for the position because of her dedication to the people in her company. “I believe that knowing the people you lead and developing relationships with them is crucial to succeed as a leader,” said Lassalle. Her goal as commander for the 2024-2025 academic year is to support and encourage members of her company to strive for continual self-improvement. “Every day we have the opportunity to either accept mediocrity or challenge ourselves to improve. At VMI, we are given ample opportunities to push ourselves to our limits in academics, athletics, and military training. The best part of this system is that when things get hard, we have the VMI community to lean on, and this starts at the company level,” she said. Lassalle is part of a VMI legacy that includes her two great uncles, Robert J. Robertson ’50-B and E. Jeff Robertson ’54; her uncle Sean Matthew Lassalle ’93; her father, Eric David Lassalle ’88; and her brother, Matthew Eric Lassalle ’22, who shares a special VMI memory with her. “On my Matriculation Day, I recall running into barracks, and all the upperclassmen were up on the higher stoops banging their class rings against the rails before we met our cadre, and I looked up to see my brother smiling down at me.” Lassalle is the daughter of Meg and Eric Lassalle ’88 of Norfolk, who she said are her role models. “They sacrificed a lot to help me become the person I am today.” She is an alumna of Catholic High School in Virginia Beach. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school or physician assistant school.  

Andrew C. Wright has been named Company H commander. He applied for the position because he wanted the opportunity to continue the strong legacy of Company H. “This past year's CO and XO of the company have invested a lot of time and effort in me as a person and a leader, and I want to be able to do the same for the rising sergeants in the Class of 2026,” he said. His goals in his new role are to maintain the standards established within the company, and boost camaraderie through company-wide events for the upper classes. He chose to come to VMI because he wanted a college experience centered around the military, with a great Navy ROTC program that would give him the best chance for commissioning as a Naval aviator. Throughout his life, Wright has had many role models including his father, uncle, many VMI cadets, and Mark Stoneburner, the leader of the VMI Navigators Bible study group, in which Wright is a member. One of Wright’s favorite quotes is the Bible passage John 15:13 “Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Wright is the son of Chris and Kristina Wright of Castle Rock, Colorado. He attended Ascent Classical Academy, and will commission into the U.S. Navy after graduating from VMI.  

Elijah G. Alberti, from Chancellorsville, Virginia, has been named Company I commander. The first member of his family to attend college, he chose VMI because he wanted to better his leadership skills before commissioning into the Marine Corps. “VMI is well known as a leadership lab that produces well-rounded, high-quality officers. I wanted that for myself as well. I applied for company commander because I believe that the opportunity to lead cadets is a very humbling, exciting job that allows me to work with some of the most dedicated and talented leaders in the corps. My goals are to maintain Company I’s outstanding reputation as contributing members of the Corps, and execute a tough, professional Rat Line for the 2024-2025 academic year. Alberti attended Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg, where he had a teacher who was a former lieutenant colonel in the Army. “He was one of my first role models for what an officer should look like, and was instrumental in my leadership development. He was passionate about leading and always had high demands of his students,” he shared. Alberti is the son of Tayme Bishop, and Joseph and Meredith Alberti. He will commission into the Marine Corps following graduation.  

John F. Kennedy has been named Band Company commander. A cello player from Humble, Texas, Kennedy chose to come to VMI because he wanted to attend the toughest school in the nation. He applied for the company commander position because every member in Band Company has touched his life, and he wants to give back in the form of a great year. “My goal is to integrate smoothly with the new band director, as well as the new commandant. I want to give the Band rats a Rat Line that instills honor, brotherhood, and a desire to always strive for self-improvement,” he said. One of Kennedy’s favorite quotes, “Life’s not fair,” comes from his grandfather, John W. Phillips, who was a great influence on Kennedy. “My grandfather gave all of himself to put his posterity in a position to succeed. His memory is a constant reminder to work hard so that his gifts are not squandered,” he shared. Kennedy is the son of Jenny and Eric Kennedy. He attended Atascocita High School, and will commission into the Army upon graduating. 
Carleigh N. Price, from Williamsburg, Virginia, has been named EMS chief. She applied for the position because, as a current EMT, she understands the necessities and rewards in providing support to all other EMTs, while providing aid to the Rat Line. “My goals for next year are to have the agency continue to support a variety of events around post, and to work closely with the other staff members while inspiring cadets to become EMTs,” said Price. Regimental positions she held in the past include EMS corporal when she was a 3rd Class cadet and currently as a 2nd Class cadet, she is the EMS executive sergeant. In addition, she is involved in the Triathlon club. Price chose to enroll at VMI because of the vast opportunities available to cadets and to graduates. “One of the greatest things at VMI is the relationships I have formed with my BRs, and knowing these relationships will continue no matter what paths we follow.” Price is the daughter of Todd and Malinda Price, and a graduate of Warhill High School. Following graduation from VMI, she plans on attending physical therapy school.  


Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing



VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders