As preparations are finalized for the arrival of about 380 first-year cadets to Virginia Tech’s campus, the focus is simple: Be safe by following the Community Wellness Commitment and public health guidelines.

“It is imperative that we are taking care of each other, being smart, and most importantly, being responsible,” said Regimental Commander Mame Ngom, a senior in Air Force ROTC majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

In the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, “we have a unique situation where we are always together, whether it is in ROTC- or corps-specific training,” Ngom said. “The friendship and camaraderie we have is unmatched, so as a whole we have to look out for each other and make sure we are doing our parts.”

That means cadet activities will look different. They will wear face masks and practice physical distancing and frequent handwashing. They also will modify their marching and military drill to stay 6 feet apart – double arm interval, in military speak — whenever possible.

Cadet leaders acknowledge that it will take discipline and a willingness to change routines, but that both are critical to mitigate the health risks of COVID-19 and help keep the larger Hokie community safe.

“What I want everyone to understand is that there are going to be many differences in how our fall semester looks, but there are still going to be many aspects of our college experience that are the same and worth returning for: the leadership training we will get in the corps, our learning opportunities through the university, and our friends nationwide that are returning for the same reasons we are,” said Vincent Stevens, a senior in Air Force ROTC majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering and commander of the corps’ 2nd Battalion.

“All we are doing is learning how to operate in a way that lowers the risk for these friends, their families, and the greater Blacksburg community,” Stevens said.

Cadets stand at parade rest in front of Pearson Hall East.
Cadets stand at parade rest in front of Pearson Hall East while waiting for morning formation to begin. Photo by Shay Barnhart for Virginia Tech.

First-year cadets will arrive on campus on Aug. 15 to begin their New Cadet Week introduction to the corps and train from upper-class cadets. All cadets will follow university requirements for COVID testing and limited contact for 48 hours.

The week will culminate with a parade at 10 a.m. Aug. 22 on the Drillfield, the final piece of the first-year cadets’ training in military drill. During the parade, the Highty-Tighties, the regimental band, will play and Skipper, the Corps of Cadets cannon, will be fired.

Spectators are asked to wear masks and practice the appropriate physical distancing.

“I believe that the key to success for maintaining health and safety throughout the semester is through cadets having self-discipline and being honest with themselves. Cadets and students need to be able to understand when a situation is safe and what is the right and wrong thing to do,” said cadet Bryan Bethke, a senior majoring in management in the Pamplin College of Business and the commander of the corps’ Citizen-Leader Track. Cadets in the Citizen-Leader Track graduate without a military obligation.