Spring 2017 Corps Review | Back
Learning Through Leadership
By Ben Paddock ’17
I had the privilege of being the Army ROTC cadet battalion commander for the fall semester. I easily can say I learned more in this semester than the past three years combined. It was amazing going from small unit leadership to being in command of over 300 cadets.
I found it humbling to see the large-scale planning that cadets engage in to make training happen. As battalion commander, I had an enormous amount of latitude in what training I wanted the battalion to focus on. Working with my staff, I created a commander’s intent and guidance for what I wanted every training event to look like. They then worked within those parameters to fill in the details of the training.
It was an enormous challenge to balance the art of command with the science of control. At the beginning of the semester, I found myself being too involved and had to step back to do my job properly. Just like everyone in the battalion, I began to learn my job and worked through my deputy commander, executive officer, sergeant major, and company commanders to effectively guide training.
Another challenge I found was keeping our Delta Company, which operates 30 minutes away at Radford University, included in the battalion.
During my tenure as battalion commander, we accomplished integrating the freshmen into ROTC by teaching them basic tactics and physical training (PT). We developed the sophomores’ and juniors’ small unit leadership skills through PT and tactical labs. Last but not least, we as seniors gained experience planning everything the battalion did throughout the semester.
This semester, the cadet battalion cadre worked hard to improve the relationship between companies and to set our spring chain of command up for success. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we accomplished over this semester.
For most students at Virginia Tech, November brings joyful thoughts of Thanksgiving break and family reunions. For Army ROTC cadets, however, November is so much more. It is a time of anticipation, nervousness, and excitement as cadets wait to hear which career field they will serve in when they go on active duty. The fact that no one knows in advance exactly which day the branch results will be released increases the tension.
On Nov. 16, 2016, the day arrived. The cadet battalion commander was given the word to convoke the seniors for the long-awaited branching ceremony. With the same excitement as the Academy Awards, the cadets were handed the envelopes containing their designated branch assignments.
Before authorizing the cadets to open the envelops, Professor of Military Science Col. Kevin Milton gave the cadets a few words of wisdom, reminding them that it is not the branch that matters most, it’s how you serve in the branch you are given that counts. Then, being the artillery officer that he is, Milton gave the command, “Standby. ... Fire.” And the cadets tore open their envelopes.
Whoops of joy, smiles, hugs, and fist bumps ensued. More than 65 percent of the cadets were ecstatic to receive their first-choice branch. Overall, 90 percent of our cadets received one of their top two branch choices.
All branches except Finance Corps were represented by Virginia Tech cadets. The most prevalent branches that were awarded were infantry (11), engineers (7), signal corps (7), medical service corps (6), and field artillery and military intelligence (5 each). Most notable this year was the selection of our first cadet to serve in the Army’s new cyber branch. Cadet Andrew Schoka ’16 will have that honor in the annals of Virginia Tech history.
Game Ball Runs to Bristol
The Army ROTC Ranger Company has performed the Game Ball Run every year since 1977. This tradition consists of members of Ranger Company running the game ball for 100 miles around campus during the week of the homecoming football game. This year, the Game Ball Run went to new heights as the Army ROTCs of Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee collaborated to bring the Game Ball Run to college football’s biggest game ever, the Battle at Bristol.
Both schools agreed to have their cadets run a game ball the same number of miles as the distance from their university to Bristol Motor Speedway. For us, that meant 132 miles. For Tennessee, that was 110 miles. Cadet Stephen Pistoia ’17, the New River Battalion physical training officer, was assigned the task of organizing the event, which differed from the homecoming Game Ball Run in that the whole Army ROTC Battalion, not just Ranger Company, would participate.
One Army ROTC company per day was assigned to run the ball around campus the week before the game. Three to five cadets ran together for an hour before passing the game ball off to the next group. On game day, both schools ran their game balls into the stadium and fired up their fans. Then, as the game was about to start, two cadets from each school headed to opposite end zones and ran the balls onto the field. The Tennessee cadets handed their game ball off to NFL’s Peyton Manning, and our cadets handed their ball to Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. Pistoia, who ran the ball onto the field with Paddock, said, “This was the most thrilling experience of my college career. When we delivered the ball to Frank Beamer, we told him ‘Beamer Ball never dies!’”