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Cadet Peter Unpinco ‘18 after his graduation ceremony from Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Cadet Peter Unpinco
Cadet Peter Unpinco ‘18 after his graduation ceremony from Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Virginia Tech commissioned and bid farewell to 69 second lieutenants this academic year. They made up a very strong class, exceeding the national average in regards to branching results: 68 percent of them received their first choice branch, 86 percent received one of their top two choices, and 100 percent received one of their top three branch choices. Field artillery (17), infantry (11), and armor (7) were the dominant branches that were awarded.

The future of our battalion remains strong. We welcomed 120 Virginia Tech first-year cadets to our program in August. Of them, 69 came in with a three- or four-year ROTC scholarship from the Cadet Command National Scholarship Board. 

Cadet Summer Training

Army ROTC cadets stayed busy during the summer participating in Cadet Summer Training opportunities all over the world. In total, the battalion sent 197 cadets on diverse summer training missions.

The majority conducted their training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where 38 cadets completed Basic Camp and 72 cadets attended Advance Camp. Four cadets also served as Basic Camp cadet leaders.

Basic Camp teaches fundamental military skills with a focus on preparing cadets to plan and execute missions as a squad. In addition to training up lateral-entry cadets with no ROTC experience, Cadet Command’s goal is that all cadets attend Basic Camp after freshman or sophomore year. 

Cadet Tana Putnum, Class of 2019, said that while at Basic Camp she experienced the CS chamber, a high ropes course, and a leadership reaction course. She said she enjoyed the realistic combat field training the most. “I learned that leadership isn’t always about knowing everything, but it’s about making a decision quickly and being calm and collected when you’re doing so.”

She added that attending Basic Camp confirmed for her that she has chosen the right branch of service, and it inspired her to use her newfound knowledge and confidence to be a mentor for incoming freshman cadets this year.

Advance Camp is the culminating event for cadets who have completed their junior year and tests their expertise and leadership potential after three years of ROTC training. Cadets spent much of their time in the field learning to function in an operational environment.

Cadet Philip Choe, Class of 2017, said Advance Camp taught him “that there are multiple levels of planning and execution throughout the chain of command” and that there are many different ways to approach a tactical situation. Overall, he said Advance Camp was a “challenging, but great learning experience.”

Army schools and internships

Thirty-seven cadets attended other domestic training opportunities to include Airborne School, Air Assault School, Cadet Field Training at the U.S. Military Academy, Northern Warfare School, Cadet Troop Leader Training, and military engineering, logistics, medical, and cyber internships across the country.

Cadet Ben Baldwin, Class of 2017, said airborne school taught him attention to detail and the importance of a positive attitude and perseverance. 

Cadet Stephen Pistoia, Class of 2017, had a medical internship at Fort Lewis, Washington. When asked about his experience he said, “My preceptor was a surgical oncologist. He showed me the benefits of being a doctor and also some of the hardships of being a cancer surgeon. I had one moving experience where I sat next to him while he had to tell a family that he was not going to be able to save their loved one — a huge learning experience for someone who is thinking about entering the surgical field. I learned a lot about the line between professionalism and showing empathy as a physician. This experience has solidified my ambitions to become an Army physician.”

CULP and Project GO

Forty-six cadets spent portions of their summer abroad participating in the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) Program or Project Global Officer (Project GO).

CULP is a Cadet Command-sponsored program in which cadets are sent to nations across the globe to work with foreign militaries and immerse themselves in foreign cultures, languages, and socio-economic views. Selection is nationally competitive. This year, Virginia Tech received 35 CULP slots, more than any other school in the nation.

Cadets traveled to many countries, including Sao Tome, Montenegro, Mozambique, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Cadet Lindsey Mazer, Class of 2019, described her time in Malawi: “My CULP experience broadened my cultural knowledge, introduced me to new perspectives and outlooks, and taught me the importance of applying cultural sensitivity to various situations.”

Cadet Jacob Payne, Class of 2018, trained with the Rwandan military and performed community service projects. He said, “Traveling to Rwanda was the most eye-opening experience I have had. I greatly enjoyed learning about Army operations in Africa and about Rwandan culture and history.”

Project GO is a Department of Defense program and is open to ROTC cadets from any service. It is much more language intensive then CULP, requiring cadets to study that language in college and then put their skills to practice in the country they visit.

Cadet Daniel Steiner, Class of 2018, studied Arabic and spent eight weeks living with a Jordanian family. He said that actually living in the culture taught him much more than any class could ever have, and added, “Airborne and Air Assault School looks cool on your chest, but a cultural immersion will teach you lessons that you will use for a lifetime.”