What is the Mission?

A cadet in a red T-shirt points a first-year cadet in the right direction.
First-year cadets learn drill from their cadre during New Cadet Week 2017.

By Lt. Col. Dave Williams ‘79, U.S. Army (retired)

It has been more than a few years since I wrote operations orders for a living, but if memory serves me correctly, paragraph one is situation and paragraph two is mission.

A good mission statement, at least back then, was short and to the point. For Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC) recruiters, that mission paragraph could read “make contact and promote to high school students, and anybody who influences high school students, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.”

Sounds pretty simple but very broad — it is on both accounts. It has to be broad because it takes thousands of contacts to produce a freshman class of roughly 350 cadets each fall. The good news is the mission remains constant year to year; the bad news is the Virginia Tech admissions situation is constantly in a state of change.

This good news/bad news conundrum is actually tied to success, and we’re a victim of Virginia Tech success on at least two levels. More high school seniors are applying to Virginia Tech than ever before. The Corps — with its robust leadership development program, to include the minor in leadership studies, and its modern facilities — is becoming well known across Virginia again.

It sounds great because it is great. However, the unintended consequence is that applicants are flocking to Blacksburg, making admission to Virginia Tech more competitive than ever. Applications for fall 2018 totaled 32,126 for 6,200 freshman vacancies, and Tech’s acceptance rate fell from roughly 73 percent last year to 55 percent this year.

Many of the prospective cadets we talked to just a few years ago and went on to become cadets would probably not be considered for admission today. The pressure on cadet recruiting and alumni recruiters is not only do we have to find leaders in high schools and convince them to consider becoming cadets, we have to find the best of the best and convince them to become a part of the VTCC. Next year, admissions will adopt a new method of application review, so all should still be encouraged to apply. The emphasis should be do your best academically and be engaged in extracurricular activities. This new method of review could benefit the Corps significantly.

There have been occasions where cadet alumni have approached me and told me that they would like to help out in recruiting, but that they were too old or too far removed from the Corps today. Nonsense. Our mission as cadet alumni is to be ambassadors for the program. You do not have to be a VTCC policy expert to tell a high school student, their parents, their teachers, or their band directors what the Corps of Cadets did to enhance the start you got on the success experienced in your life. If the conversation gets to a level of detail about the Corps that exceeds your knowledge, you can always refer prospective cadets to vtcc.vt.edu or to the assistant commandant for recruiting, Lt. Col. Rewa Mariger.

Until next time, when we take on the how-to of recruiting in paragraph three: Execution.

Ut Prosim.