Fall 2017 Corps Review | Back
By Lt. Col. Dave Williams ’79, U.S. Army (retired)
I had the chance to interface with Virginia Tech cadets during the fall semester — first-year cadet privates, the regimental commander, and, a few days ago, the band company commander while I was at homecoming with the Highty-Tighty Alumni Band. With every encounter, I have been impressed with the poise, military bearing, and the ability of our cadets to quickly formulate their thoughts and communicate them effectively. I found myself wishing that I had had the benefit of their level of training when I was a cadet!
In his 1982 Armed Forces Day address, President Ronald Reagan borrowed a line from James Michener’s book “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” by asking: “Where do we find such men?” The president answered the question with: “They come from across this great nation.”
Much the same can be said for the cadets of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets — where do we find such young men and young women?
This fall, I once again got to work with my friend Lt. Col. Gary Jackson ’78 from the admissions office, and once again I saw where young leaders come from. You have to be patient, and you have to look for subtle markers. But at every college fair, a handful of students approached the Virginia Tech table with the spark of a future cadet inside them. Those high school seniors and juniors had much of the confidence and purpose of mission that I see in our cadets.
The percentage of potential cadets compared with the general population interested in Virginia Tech is small but motivated. The implication for Corps alumni recruiters is we have to have thousands of conversations every year to produce 1,800 cadet applications to Virginia Tech and from that a freshman class of roughly 375 cadets. That’s because we are in direct competition with the service academies and other senior military colleges for that very scarce asset — potential future leaders. An offer of admission to Virginia Tech will probably not win out over a service academy appointment just based on pure economics. Furthermore, competition among the senior military colleges for this limited pool of applicants is fierce.
As the fall college fair season closes, I am encouraged. For the first time, I no longer feel that the Corps is the best-kept secret in Virginia. My conversations with high school seniors, whom I hope to see as cadets on campus, have energized me. I look forward to the out-of-state college fair season this winter and spring and to the opportunities other cadet alumni recruiters will have across the country to meet and encourage the best part of the future generation of leaders to become Virginia Tech cadets.