It’s not just the regular chorus of “yes ma’ams” and eye-catching uniforms that set Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership cadets apart from their Mary Baldwin College classmates. Summer plans for this unique group of students often include spending weeks in environments that push physical and emotional boundaries.
“No cadet just goes home and does nothing,” said VWIL senior Tesla Goodrich. “We’re just not used to that.”
As they begin to return to campus this week, these future leaders are reflecting on time spent these past few months preparing for their future careers in the military, traveling to Morocco, Korea, Hawaii, Bahrain, and participating in training all over the United States. (See a slideshow of contributed images on the VWIL Facebook page .)
Two cadets completed Air Force summer training and one cruised the Persian Gulf on the USS Enterprise. Another completed Air Force basic training and started tech training. Four completed Army basic training. Some cadets checked Cadet Troop Leader Training, or CTLT, off their to-do lists and five cadets took part in Leadership Development and Assessment Course, or LDAC, the centerpiece of the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.
For her LDAC experience, Victoria Barrett ’13 spent her summer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State enduring physical fitness and navigation skills testing, conducting mock missions, and drilling in cultural awareness, weapons, first-aid, and water confidence. The 29 day-mission is designed to help participants overcome fears and reach beyond their comfort zones.
“You get to meet a lot of people from all over the country and it just really puts all the training you’ve learned in the past three years to the test,” said Barrett, a cross-country runner and international relations major from Chesapeake.
ROTC experience at Virginia Military Institute helped prepare her for the physical challenges, Barrett said, but leadership training in the VWIL program gave her a leg up in the various leadership roles she played at LDAC training, particularly when it came to motivating others.
While Barrett used her VWIL-honed leadership skills to complete her summer training, Amanda Fadden ’15 gained an even greater appreciation for the rights women enjoy here in the United States while in Morocco, where she spent two months in Arabic language lessons.
“I’m not going to lie,” said Fadden, who hopes to use her newly acquired language skills in the military. “Being a first-year learner … it was the most difficult language. But it was a really good program. I was in a class with others who also had never taken Arabic before.”
The international relations and Asian studies major from Lexington, North Carolina, said that while there were plenty of positive cultural lessons in Morocco, she witnessed a different standard for women in the Moroccan culture, and even some abuse.
“It was hard to swallow, ” Fadden said. “Being in VWIL, you know, it’s all about women’s empowerment.”
While Fadden and Barrett are back on campus preparing for the year ahead, other cadets, such as rising sophomore Tatiana Western, are still taking advantage of the remaining days of summer break. Western is taking part this week in the Army Air Assault training, where, in addition to various tactical skills, she’ll learn to rappel from a helicopter.