Learning what to expect in a future career can be a valuable part of an education. Students in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets can connect with a work environment that is uniquely challenging and intense — the combat zone in Iraq.
A new videoconferencing program allows cadets to speak directly with corps alumni serving in Iraq. In these sessions, called Remote Gunfighter Panels, alumni share their experiences in military deployment, leadership, combat, and discuss how the corps of cadets prepared them for a life of service to community and society.
The alumni panel consists of three to four corps graduates of various ranks, ages, and undergraduate majors who convey the real nature of military service to a classroom of current cadets.
The panel members answer questions about their daily lives on active duty at Camp Victory and Contingency Operating Base Adder, which are both located in combat zones near Baghdad. Communications between students and alumni are in real time. A previous session was even interrupted by incoming fire.
The panels provide a chance for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumni who participate to give back to the corps.
Aside from their experiences serving in combat and living on a base, the alumni address individual questions and share the lessons they learned from the corps that have helped them as officers serving in wartime.
Panel members explain that the strength of character and sense of service that the corps’ unique program imparts to cadets have proven instrumental in their post-graduate military careers.
"While you may think that a lot of the things that you’re doing now do not apply to the real world, they will,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Angela Jacobson during a Remote Gunfighter Panel on Feb. 26, 2010. Jacobson earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Virginia Tech in 2000.
“The conditions and the obstacles and the challenges that they’re giving you are going to help build a foundation for you as a person,” she said. “It’s going to teach you patience. It’s going to teach you how to react to different situations — all qualities that you’re going to have to build upon when you become officers in your respective services.”
The Remote Gunfighter Panels are a technologically innovative new segment of the corps’ traditional Gunfighter Panels, held on campus starting with the Iraq war. Both are a part of the Leaders in Action lecture series hosted by the corps’ Rice Center for Leader Development. The videoconferences take place in the new Global Technology Center of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, located in Norris Hall.
The remote panels are made possible by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michele Compton, a former cadet who earned a bachelor’s degree in geology with Virginia Tech’s Class of 1983.
Compton coordinated three Remote Gunfighter Panels held in the 2010 spring semester from Baghdad, where she served as the senior female officer for the U.S. forces. Compton is a member of the first class to include female cadets, as well as the first female graduate of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets to attain general or flag officer rank. She is also the parent of current cadet Leigh Compton of Kailua, Hi., a junior majoring in animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
To learn more about the corps of cadets and its tradition of service at Virginia Tech, visit www.vtcc.vt.edu.
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