Cindy Bither
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New Cadet Club Networks with Alumni on D.C. Trip

FullTextImage/img/@altArmy Maj. E. Sean Lanier ’94 (far left) and Sgt. 1st Class Devon Legare (third from left) join Team VMI as they pose with the trophy for first male team following the annual Rocks Inc. five-mile run fundraiser. --Photo courtesy of Maj. E. Sean Lanier '94.

LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 26, 2013 – Seven members of a newly formed ROTC club at VMI took a trip to the Pentagon Sept. 20-21 to help cadets build networking relationships and explore career opportunities.

Members of the club, a chapter of the ROCKS Inc., traveled to the Washington, D.C., area to meet members of that area's chapter and to participate in a fundraiser for the ROCKS.

The ROCKS Inc. is a national nonprofit organization that provides mentorship, scholarship, and fellowship opportunities for ROTC cadets, as well as active duty, reserve and retired commissioned and warrant officers. The national organization began in 1974 as a support system for African-American Army officers, but now welcomes minority and non-minority members of all branches of the service.

VMI’s chapter, which was officially established this fall, now has 12 members, all of whom are seeking commissions, said Maj. Chris Perry ’05, assistant commandant for cadet life and one of the group’s organizers.

Traveling to the Pentagon were 1st Class cadet Charles Gray (Air Force); 2nd Class cadets Michael Hale (Air Force) and Fredrick Walker (Army); and 3rd Class cadets Josh Bowen (Navy), Ryan Loe (Army), Syd Ally (Marine Corps), and Louis Lu (Army). The cadets were accompanied by Sgt. 1st Class Devon Legare from VMI’s Army ROTC unit.

At the Pentagon, the cadets and Legare met up with Army Maj. E. Sean Lanier ’94 for a tour of the world’s largest low-rise office building. Next, they had lunch in the Pentagon dining room with more than 15 VMI alumni, including Philip Wilkerson ’72, one of the first three African-Americans to graduate from the Institute; Dr. Shelton Rhodes ’77, dean of Delaware State University; and several active duty and retired Air Force officers. After lunch, cadets met with officers from several branches of the service and joined another group of VMI alumni for dinner.

On Saturday morning, the cadets did the Institute proud by winning the trophy for first male team in the annual ROCKS Inc. five-mile fundraiser.

“They surprised me, winning the whole thing,” Perry noted. He added that the cadets’ accomplishment was even more noteworthy given the fact that one of the other teams was made up entirely of cross-country runners. Six other schools, some much larger than VMI, were represented in the race.

All of the cadets reported that the networking aspect of the trip had been an invaluable experience for them.

“I have met high-ranking officers before, but never so many that were from VMI,” said Walker. “It is amazing to know that these may one day be the men that I am working for. And even if not, they will still be there to guide me so that I can reach back and bring the next generation forward. This trip was a tremendous blessing and I can’t wait for next year.”

Lu agreed with Walker, saying, “I learned how broad the alumni network connection is and how its potential growth is unbeatable. I was able to talk to a couple of VMI alumni who gave me tips and advice to help me experience success in my future. I also gained a more in-depth understanding of my desired career field.”

Future plans for VMI’s chapter of the ROCKS, said Perry, include guest speakers and a spring ball. Perry described the ball, which is actually not a dance, as a networking event featuring awards and honors. A return trip to the Pentagon next year is also in the works.

“This is something we definitely want to do again,” he said.

–Mary Price