From the Fall 2016 edition    |    Back

Cadet Zack Sever and Tank greet cadets after the first morning formation of the fall semester.

Cadet Zack Sever and Tank greet cadets after the first morning formation of the fall semester.
Cadet Zack Sever and Tank greet cadets after the first morning formation of the fall semester.

Commandant's Column
By Commandant of Cadets Maj. Gen. Randal D. Fullhart, U.S. Air Force (retired)

Those of you who are regular followers of my Facebook page should know by now that the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets recently welcomed a new ambassador to its ranks. His designation is Growley II, and his call sign is “Tank.”

It is always treacherous ground to try and reconstruct history, so perhaps we can all agree to embrace some various folklore to build Growley II’s story upon. (I also have no doubt that my attempt here will generate some mail with more updates.)

A man by the name of “Growley” Schultz ran the mess hall in the early 1900s, and reports are that he didn’t have a very sunny disposition. Students called the food served there “growley,” and eventually first-year cadets who announced the time until the morning formation would call “minutes to growley.”

Another piece of folklore centers around reports of a dog that was either the property of a Depression-era commandant or was at least adopted by cadets of that era. The practice was for cadets to hold a bit of “growley” back from their meals to ensure that the dog had enough to eat.

Now fast forward to present day. When the cadets’ initiative to add a four-legged ambassador to our ranks took shape during the last academic year, they maintained the connection to Growley and the past

As many of you know, military working dogs have been a part of military organizations for decades. Today, there are dogs working side-by-side with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines all over the world. Their sense of loyalty, positive attitude, discipline, and unconditional service to others are all characteristics we hope to emulate throughout our lives.

If any of you are or have been dog owners in the past, you know that it takes no small amount of effort to properly care for and support the needs of an ordinary pet, and it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and discipline to train and maintain a service dog.

Enter Tank

We were very fortunate to be connected with a breeder and trainer of service dogs who happened to have a 3-year-old male yellow Labrador. Tank has a list of training and performance accolades a mile long. He has worked to provide support to those in hospitals, to young children, and throughout his community.

Tank and his owners visited the campus over the summer and met with Cadet Zack Sever, the cadet who launched the initiative and now serves as the senior handler. A match was made, and Tank began his service with the Corps on Aug. 28.

No ordinary program, we are required to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards and are subject to inspections at any time. Tank resides with his senior handler and his assistant in Pearson Hall, and there are two junior handlers designated and two sophomores, all of whom form the team that will train with and work with Tank as he travels across the campus. As you might expect, the work, dedication, and professionalism of the handlers are paramount as they, too, will be representing the Corps at important functions; talking with alumni, friends, and guests; and ensuring Tank’s safety and well-being.

Needless to say, we are all very excited about this new facet in our program. As Tank arrived, we also welcomed 387 new cadets who make up the Class of 2020, bringing us to start the year with 1,093 cadets — yet another increase in our overall enrollment!

Cadets salute as the National Anthem is played at the Battle at Bristol football game at Bristol Motor Speedway

Cadets salute as the National Anthem is played at the Battle at Bristol football game.
Cadets salute as the National Anthem is played at the Battle at Bristol football game at Bristol Motor Speedway

Our trip to the Battle at Bristol with the entire Corps was a memorable event for all as the Corps marched around the entire track, partnered with the University of Tennessee to form the color guard, and took Skipper on its first, out-of-state experience to fire on the field!

We look forward to seeing many of you during the course of the year and sharing other great news, including the latest drawings of the new Corps Leadership and Military Science Building and the incredible, second new residence hall that is towering above the Drillfield!

Randal D. Fullhart

Major General Randal Fullhart
Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart