CORPS OF CADETS
Women were first allowed to join the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets three years before the federal service academies opened their doors to females. This past spring, nearly 40 years later, the highest junior and senior leadership positions a Tech cadet can attain were both held by professional, focused females. Cadet Amanda McGrath, regimental commander and a senior in Air Force ROTC, joined the corps for the senior military college experience and to prepare herself for an Air Force commission. Cadet Hope Mills, command sergeant major and a junior in Air Force ROTC, spent a year at a small college, came to Virginia Tech as a civilian student for another year, and then joined the corps to pursue what she felt would be a more challenging and fulfilling college experience.
In order to hold a leadership position in the corps, cadets must undergo preliminary screening and interviews with the senior officers on the commandant's staff. Both McGrath and Mills went through this process multiple times. As members of the regimental staff, they regularly worked together to ensure smooth operation of the cadet regiment. The rare opportunity to lead 900-plus cadets allowed them to develop their confidence in leading peers and interacting with officers on the commandant's staff, as well as officers and non-commissioned officers in their ROTC detachment.
"[The Corps of Cadets] has given me the chance to be in an environment where I can take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them while developing into the leader I want to be," said Mills. "I don't feel like I would be the kind of Air Force officer I want to be without my experiences here."
Said McGrath, "I was always a quiet and withdrawn kid. Being in the Corps of Cadets has made me more outgoing and given me the opportunity to build professional and lifelong relationships." In April, McGrath was named the university's Outstanding Undergraduate Leader of the Year for 2012. Her achievement puts her in good company: For nine consecutive years, a cadet has been recognized as either the Outstanding Undergraduate Leader or the Undergraduate Man or Woman of the Year, or both.
Mills and McGrath agreed that being on the regimental staff was not always an easy task, but their professional relationship and personal friendship helped them overcome the difficulties of their jobs. Coincidentally, Mills will become 2nd Battalion commander, a position previously held by McGrath in fall 2011.
"I loved being 2nd Battalion commander, and I am excited to see such a great teammate and servant-leader take on that role. It's a real honor. I know she will do bigger and better things than I was able to," said McGrath, who graduated and commissioned into the Air Force in May and will attend flight training to pursue a career as a pilot.