Virginia Military Institute

Elizabeth Wilkerson: Rat baby

October 11, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Colleges

Elizabeth Wilkerson is a freshman (better known as a rat) at the Virginia Military Institute. She was born in Virginia and is 18 years old. However, Virginia is not home to her. Her father is a retired Marine, so she has moved around a lot. She mostly grew up in California, but she currently lives in Quantico, VA. She is the oldest of three and has two younger sisters.

Elizabeth originally did not want to go to college, but instead wanted to enlist in the Marines like her father. However, her parents told her she needed to go to college, so she decided that she wanted to go to a military college and not a civilian college. Her father told her to research the Naval Academy, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, and a few others. Once she researched VMI, she became interested in it and decided to attend an Open House visit in order to visit the college and get a feel for it. During her visit, she knew that VMI was the college for her. She loved the structure, tradition, and organization of it. Additionally, the cadets that hosted her in their room had a really good attitude about the college. VMI is a tough place to get through but these girls made it look do-able. Elizabeth was able to get a first-hand account of what VMI was going to be like by staying with cadets in their room and seeing what it was like to be a rat. She knew it was going to be hard, but she was ready for the challenge.

So Elizabeth is currently a rat right now going through the ratline. She is an International Studies major, but is going to switch to a Modern Languages and Cultures major with a focus in Arabic. She would really like to be an anthropologist when she graduates from VMI. She is considering going into the Peace Corps because she wants to live with and experience another culture first-hand. But right now she is focused on getting through the ratline. As a rat, there is not much time to do extracurricular activities because they keep you pretty busy doing work-outs and obstacle courses, but once the ratline is over she is considering joining the club volleyball team and looking into other club sports that are available. Along with being a rat, Elizabeth is in Golf company (every cadet is assigned a company) and is in the Army ROTC program, but she is still undecided if she wants to join the military.

In addition, when you are a rat, you are assigned a senior who is your mentor. It is similar to the big little program that sororities do at civilian colleges. Your senior mentor is called your dyke because the original meaning of dyke is a wall that holds back water. Dykes are there for the rats to guide them and be a resource to them. We help them get through the ratline. Elizabeth is my roommate’s rat, so I am considered her uncle dyke. The rat dyke relationship is unlike any other relationship. We are like an older sibling to them and our room is a safe haven for them. We want them to make it through the ratline.

Overall, Elizabeth is glad she chose VMI, even though right now she might be second guessing herself. The ratline is tough and one of the hardest things you will go through in your life, but I know she’ll make it through because she is one of my rat babies. You got this Elizabeth! Rah VA Mil! 15!

Elizabeth and her dyke Alexis

Elizabeth and her dyke Alexis

Virginia Military Institute’s Social Scene: Is there even such a thing?

July 8, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Colleges, Events, Reviews

Virginia Military Institute is not known for its party scene. It is a dry campus focused on creating individuals known as citizen soldiers. If anyone is caught on campus intoxicated, in possession of alcohol, or having sexual relations, then they will face severe consequences. Now with that being said, we are all still college students in our twenties wanting to have a good time, especially since it feels like we are in prison every day. Here are a few ways to have a good time as a cadet.

1.      Leave Post (Campus) on the Weekend

Most upper-class cadets (sophomores-seniors) will take any chance they get to leave on weekends to go find a party at other civilian colleges nearby. Most cadets are from Virginia and have friends at civilian colleges not too far away and that is where the party scene is. Most of them go to JMU (James Madison University) or UVA (University of Virginia) and find parties there.

2.      Go to the Local Bars in town

Now granted Lexington is a small town and doesn’t have much going on for the average college student, but every college town has its bars. Most cadets go to either Macado’s or The Palms. These are the two most popular bars in the area and are within walking distance of the school. They both have a variety of drinks and food and are known as the hang out place for cadets, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

Macado's

Macado’s

3.    Go to a W&L (Washington and Lee College) Party

W&L is our neighboring college which is within walking distance. They have a ton of fraternities and sorority houses, which of course have parties almost every weekend. The only problem is there is a slight risk of getting in trouble if going to one because as cadets we are not allowed to wear civilian clothing in town, we must wear our uniforms, but no one wants to show up at a frat party in a uniform. Also, there is a curfew on Friday and Saturday nights that is strictly enforced. So if planning on attending you have to make sure you don’t] get caught in civilian clothes, get back by curfew and don’t get caught if drunk, otherwise party it up!

4.      Attend the annual V.M.I Parties

Every year V.M.I has three parties for cadets. The first one of the year is Homecoming, which is held in the Fall. On Saturday night of Homecoming weekend, after the football game there is a dance held in the gymnasium. Cadets are allowed to bring a date and there is a DJ at the dance. Afterwards, cadets go to a hotel and really party it up (if you know what I mean). In February is the second dance known as Midwinter Formal. This dance is a lot fancier than Homecoming is. Cadets are again allowed to bring a date and there is a live band for this dance. And once again, the real party is at the hotels afterwards. The third dance is back in November, but this dance is only for the juniors and their dates. This one is called the Ring Figure ball. It is the best party out of all of them because it is an entire weekend dedicated to activities. This is when you receive your class ring, which is a big deal. During that week, Thursday there is a class dinner, Friday is the ring presentation and the ball that night which has a live band, and Saturday night is the tent party with a DJ. This is when cadets really know how to party and have a good time. There is nothing like it anywhere else.

V.M.I Ring Figure Ball

V.M.I. Ring Figure Ball

Overall, V.M.I’s social scene isn’t as crazy as other civilian colleges, but that doesn’t mean cadets don’t like to party. Every chance we get, we take it. And you don’t know how to party till you’ve met a V.M.I. cadet.

Virginia Military Institute’s Top 10 Most Interesting Activities You Will do as a Freshman (or in our case a Rat)

July 1, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Colleges, Events, Top 10 Lists

At the Virginia Military Institute, your freshman year is far from fun. You will have an experience unlike anyone else at a civilian college but it will be an experience you will never forget nor trade for anything in the world—I know I wouldn’t.

1.      Matriculation Day/Hell Week

Matriculation day is your first day. You receive your uniforms, move your stuff into your room, say a heartfelt goodbye to your family, and then march up towards the barracks to the sound of a bagpipe band, thus marking the beginning of your week of hell. Your first week as a rat is known as hell week and for a very good reason. You arrive a week before all of the upperclassman do in order to be instructed on how to conduct yourself during the school year. Your hair is immediately cut off, guys get a buzz and the girls get a short bob. Your 18 hour days are filled with physical training (PT), rifle manual instruction, instructions on how to set up your room, learning the rules of the institute, and receiving your uniform items. This is the beginning of the end.

VMI matriculation day marchoffVMI matriculation day marchoff

2.      The Crucible

At the end of hell week, you are put to the test to see if you are even worthy to start the school year. The last day of hell all of the rats go through what we like to call the crucible. The crucible is a day filled with challenging obstacles and harrowing feats. Once you have completed the crucible, you march up Superintendent’s hill (Supe’s hill) to the sound of the Regimental Band and into the barracks where all of the upperclassman are moving into their rooms. Thus begins, the academic year.

Rat Crucible

Rat Crucible

3.      The Charge at New Market

In September of your rat year, you participate in what is known as the charge at New Market. Virginia Military Institute is known for fighting in the Civil War Battle known as New Market. As an entire rat mass, you visit the battle field, go through the museum, take the Cadet Oath and then charge with rifle and bayonet across the battlefield replicating the battle scene. This is a very special tradition at our school and one which signifies a step to becoming a cadet.

New Market Charge

New Market Charge

4.      Visiting the National D-Day Memorial

In the Fall, the entire rat mass goes to visit the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. This is a worthwhile experience and one I found to be quite fascinating. This memorial is honoring the soldiers who fought on D-Day. The statues and monuments are thrilling to look at but really make you step back and appreciate those that served and who are currently serving now.

National D-Day Memorial

National D-Day Memorial

5.      Rat Olympics

In November, the rats participate in an event known as Rat Olympics. Throughout the semester, each Tuesday and Thursday after classes the rats partake in activities known as Rat Challenge. Some of the activities include rock climbing, rappelling, pugil sticks, and a bunch of obstacle courses. This gets them ready for Rat Olympics. There are nine companies of rats and they compete against each other in order to win Rat Olympics and everyone does at least one activity. It is a great bonding experience with your classmates and also a bit of a stress reliever.

Rat Olympics

Rat Olympics

6.      20 Mile March   

Also in November, before Thanksgiving break, all of the rats go on a 20 mile march. During my rat year, we were bussed 20 miles out from the New Market battlefield and then had to march the 20 miles there. Once we got there, we had to charge across the battlefield again just like earlier in the semester. It is a very humbling moment and one that really makes you appreciate the amazing things your body can do, even when it is exhausted. Unfortunately, the past two years the rats did not get that privilege of marching to the battlefield on account of the costs of transportation but they still marched the 20 miles at a different location.

20 Mile March

20 Mile March

7.      Sweat Parties/RDC (Rat Disciplinary Committee) Workouts

As a rat, throughout the semester you will get a chance to go to many parties unlike any you’ve ever been too. This type of party is the only party you’ll be attending your rat year. A sweat party is a term for a strenuous 15 minute workout you receive by upperclassmen in which you will be drenched in sweat by the end of the workout. These parties happen every few weeks while you are a rat. In addition, RDC workouts are somewhat the same thing. They are rigorous workouts each weekend that last a couple of hours long. You will not be in this great of shape again.

Sweat Party

Sweat Party

8.      Breakout

This is the best and probably the most exciting event you will do your rat year at V.M.I. Breakout is the momentous occasion where if you survive the day, you will no longer be called a rat and instead a fourth classman and cadet. This is when the entire rat mass is finally recognized as a class—but you have to get through the day first. Your day starts off around 5 in the morning when you are woken up by the sound of canons and gunfire. The rest of the day consists of harrowing physical feats. You are broken down to the point of exhaustion. At the end of the day, once you have completed all of the events you get to go to dinner with your senior mentor and then do a yell for your class in barracks. It will be one of the best days of your life—if you can make it.

Breakout

Breakout

 

9.      Jonathan Daniels Movie

In March, not too long after breaking out there is a memorial for an alumnus from the class of 1961. His name is Jonathan Daniels. The fourth classmen get to watch a documentary about him and what he did for the Civil Rights Movement. Jonathan Daniels was down in Alabama participating in a voter rights demonstration in 1965. He was arrested and put in jail because of being involved. Shortly after he got out he was at a local store with two young African American teenagers. A man came up aiming his shotgun at one of them. Daniels pushed her to the ground to protect her and he was killed instantly. The institute honors him every year for his selfless and heroic act.

Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan Daniels

10.  Fourth Class FTX (Field Training Exercise)

In May, once finals are over, all of the fourth classman go on a field training exercise in the George Washington National Forest. Throughout the Spring semester, you participate in New Cadet Military Training (NCMT). You learn skills such as how to shoot a rifle, make a fire, land navigation, and basically how to survive in the wild.  These skills are put to the test during FTX. You are put in groups of about five or six with one person as the leader. You are dropped off in the forest for a weekend. You are given a map, compass, the check points, and one Meal-Ready-to-Eat (M.R.E.). You have to build your own fire, which is extremely important because it gets really cold at night, find your way to the check points throughout the day, and avoid the enemy forces, which are upperclassmen on the lookout to take what little food you have. This is another good bonding experience with your classmates and one in which you learn things that might come in handy someday.

Fourth Class FTX

Fourth Class FTX