Archive for the ‘Running Cadence’ Category

Breaking news: the big kids don’t bully

"I'm pointing to Princeton, NJ. That's where I wish I was. They probably wouldn't make fun of my V-neck." Defense Dept. photo by John Kruzel.

It seems we have future PR officers in the making.

I recently asked two of Princeton’s freshman cadets about what their experience in the battalion has been like so far: what were they expecting? What did they end up getting?

I must be  intimidating enough, because they took my “order” to heart and got back to me double-time. I needed to employ a surprisingly minimal amount of evil glares and guerrilla annoyance tactics to  summon forth their creativity.

And their insights are interesting…if a bit positive. Perhaps they’ve been conditioned; they’re always gunning for an “A.” (Get it? Gunning?)

So without further ado:

­Before arriving at the Princeton armory for the first time, I was not sure what being a member of ROTC at Princeton would be like. I was resigned and somewhat prepared for what I would refer to as the “stupidity” of the Army—older cadets making me do push-ups for minor infractions, officers chewing me out for being a minute late to some ridiculous formation, etc. I assumed I would have to put up with this in order to get the many things I wanted out of the Army, and I had already decided that sacrificing some dignity and sweat would be worth it. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the first PT session and did not have to grovel in front of, or even salute cadets that outranked me. Since then I have been talked to disciplinarily, but only for infractions that were completely within my control to not commit.

I was also happy to learn (though not surprised this time) that I would not be required to attend PT sessions during weeks that I had wrestling practice. I walked on to the wrestling team at the beginning of the year, and handling a full load of classes, ROTC, and wrestling was something I was not sure I was ready for. But ROTC’s policy is to allow any conflicts to go to a Varsity sport if necessary. As a result, I haven’t been able to attend nearly as many ROTC leadership labs (or any PT sessions) as I would have liked to, but I feel like I’m an accepted part of the battalion regardless. I probably take more ribbing from my fellow cadets and sergeants than other guys do, but that comes with the territory.


My favorite part? “Infractions…completely within my control not to commit.” Yep, those ones, those are always bad. We miss you at PT, buddy! And cut your hair.

And round two:

I didn’t expect Princeton ROTC to be as supportive and enjoyable as it has proven to be. I expected that the relationship between first year cadets and older cadets would not be very close, perhaps even strained. I really didn’t have much knowledge about what I was committing to as part of ROTC. I had visited and learned about the military academies and had seen there the relationship between first year cadets and upperclassmen and expected to receive some sort of similar hazing. However, older cadets have proven to be nothing but a source of help and practical advice with tips on everything from how to lace up my boots to the best way to execute a pushup. Despite the minor inconveniences and limitations placed on my sleep and study habits by having to get up early in the mornings for PT, schedule MS class and participate in ROTC labs, I feel that ROTC has helped give my life structure here by forcing me to stay on top of assignments and keep my schedule well organized. I have really enjoyed my time in ROTC and the training and educational opportunities that I have been able to engage in through the program. For example, this fall I was given the opportunity to go to the Holocaust Museum and on a guided tour of the Pentagon on a trip that was both entertaining and highly informative. I look forward to the rest of my years in ROTC and my time in the army.


Alright, it’s official. Let’s get some logos, some camo and some stock photos with diverse-looking models. We can start printing the ‘ol pamphlets.


Oh, mama

Surprise! The second record Army Physical Fitness Test of the year is rapidly approaching, as is the slightly worrying prospect of MS IIs leading morning PT sessions.

For the past few months, I’ve been training with Fortis Academy founder and all-around awesome Princeton student Josh Levine to build strength, resist injury and nudge that APFT score higher. (All worthy goals, though Josh and I would also love to see a certain cadet’s high score conquered).

However, a gruesome finals period and a badly sprained wrist have me worried that I’ve cramped my progress. Call me insecure, but I think if we faced each other today, my mother would kick my ass.

Of course, my mother is no ordinary woman.

"This Christmas card photo is taking a long time. Let's go over there and do some lunges."

Some women have walk-in closets. My mother has a pull-up bar. Free-standing and made of steel, the thing looks like a doorway, a magical portal from her room to the land of beautifully-defined back muscles.

The picture of health, my mother. Every time I go back home, she has six new nutrition texts at her desk. A doctor should take photos of our kitchen shelves, honestly. And of course, she looks great. Since my sophomore year of high school, she gives me clothing that…wait for it…is too big for her. One time we were going through security at the airport, and the TSA agent thought she and my brother were twins.

My mother has always inspired me in many ways. She’s thoughtful, pragmatic and dedicated.  A graduate of the second class of women at West Point, my mother went on to fly helicopters for the army, study history and teach. I count on her support but I also think there is something about her example that is especially motivating for the trials of cadet life.

Because when I’m complaining, she’s already done twenty reps.

I bless the rains down in Africa

How cool is it that I get to go to Tanzania for a month this summer? I’ll tell you. Very Cool. (Side note: Google tells me that “cool” in Swahili is “cool,” which is awesome and also probably wrong, considering the kind of cool I meant. “Awesome” is “kutisha.”)

I’ll explain. In the past couple of years, Cadet Command has seriously expanded a program called the Culture and Language Deployment (CULP). Basically, you say what area of the world you want to go and whether you’d prefer working with a non-profit or checking out another country’s military. And then you get sent there. For free.

Well, you know, it’s almost free. If something is on the army’s dime, it’s going to come with a lot of paperwork, and maybe a little bit of miscommunication thrown in for funsies.

Take for example the fact that I was originally put down for a trip to El Salvador (pretty Kutisha as well) but I would have had to jet off in the middle of my 2nd semester finals. One can dream, of course, but the dean don’t like those kinds of dreams. He’s got a machine that sucks those dreams away. Like a dream dyson.

Anyhow, the cadre thankfully got that sorted out, and so I’m going to be volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania, along with a bunch of other khaki-and-polo-clad cadets from throughout the country.

I’m sure I’m going to write about this later, so for now I’ll just share a few details from some of the pre-deployment tasks we’ve had to do (a bunch of other Princeton kids are doing CULPs as well).

From the convenience of my laptop, I learned about Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE). Some of the information was not surprising. For example, when you hole up to get your evading on, use dirt to cover that oily, ugly face of yours, and use tree branches to break up the distinctly human outline of your person. Of course. Makes sense. If you need to build rapport with your captor, chat with him about football and his family. Sure. Yeah. Absolutely.

Some of the other information was completely new to me. Did you know that you can eat worms raw if you let them soak in potable water for 15 minutes? They purify themselves. MMM, DELICIOUS. Actually I shouldn’t joke. Princeton has a bug-eating club. And you thought we were just nerdy-weird!

It's called protein, and you need it

We also had to take a basic level anti-terrorism course, which I found extremely interesting. Pro tip: if you have to book a hotel room, pick one that does not have a shared bathroom and don’t get one too close to an exit (makes it easy for them to get away!).

Thanks also to this course, I stumbled upon what can only be the DoD’s euphemistic definition of “seduction.” Here goes:

“Operatives may use members of the opposite sex to gain access to facilities and collect information”

So steamy. I can’t take it.

The knowledge of torch

I have to say, it’s fabulous to be back.

Returning to the Battalion as an MS 2, I’ve discovered how great it feels to know stuff.

To know, for example, that the female bathroom on the second floor of the armory is so rarely used that brown gunk sometimes comes out of the soap dispenser. (Well, I’m assuming it’s rarely used, but a bathroom’s a bathroom, especially when another bathroom is busy).

To know that new equipment looks cooler, but my equipment actually works…because it has since Vietnam.

To know that when my favorite janitor doesn’t say “hi” the way he normally does, its not because he’s having a bad day, but because he thinks I’m someone else when I’m in uniform and is confused as to how I know his name.

To know not to expect my book stipend to be in my mailbox, but to check anyway, just in case.

Some things I don’t know?  The names of all the new cadets. I try to learn them, I really do, but too often my eyes start desperately roving around for backup–a birthmark in the shape of a similar-sounding animal? nope. A non-regulation, very boring but also very useful tattoo? nope. And on their chest only a naked strip of velcro. Its times like these when I say a prayer for that prisoner somewhere whose job it is to machine-embroider on a nametape the tricky, probably hyphenated word of obscure origin that I cannot recall. Be swift and speedy, my friend, for all our sakes.

It’s alright, though; the newbies will forgive me. I certainly wasn’t fussed about being re-christened “hey” for a few weeks last year. I was too busy trying to learn all the things that now I consider second nature. Like what exactly to say to make each/one of my classmates want to murder me:

Other MS 2: “So at Air Assault, ___________[insert anecdote demonstrating difficulty and/or frustration and using at least one frighteningly large number of reps]____________.

Me: “Hey, so did you get paid over the summer?”

Other MS 2: “What!?! You got paid? I spent my summer crawling around in the heat doing overhead arm claps…(fades into incomprehensible grumbling)”

Me: “Oh yeah, what was that thing you did? What was it, again? I’m sorry, I forgot.”

Coming soon: Ranger Challenge! Push-ups! Room-clearing! Mud! Grenades! Blog posts that don’t make me sound like a complete jerk!