So this was the first year that I have been an active member of the support staff for the NROTC orientation week. It was a long week and pretty tiring but actually quite rewarding and I am glad that I had the opportunity to finally take part in it. I really felt like I was giving a little back to the unit (Cornell NROTC) and I think that if I had some small part in making the new fourth class’ (freshmen) experience better then it was a success on my part. Most days consisted of waking up at 5:15 AM and meeting at the unit (Barton Hall) before heading over to Schoellkopf field (the football field) for PT (physical training). PT was not very physically demanding after getting back from Officer Candidates School, but it was quite a challenge for most of the fourth class. Typically we would start by warming up with stretching exercises and then calisthenics called the “daily 7.” After that we would go on runs, either for a mile and a half around campus or Indian runs for twenty minutes in the stadium. On the final day, Friday, we all ran up and down Libe slope, which was probably the most physically demanding thing we did all week.
After PT, I typically went home and was able to take a shower and change out of my PT shirt and shorts and into my cammies, which were my uniform for each day. I would normally go back to the unit and help out where I was needed whether that be cooking meals for the fourth class or standing watch of the unit while the fourth class was in academic periods of instruction. On Thursday I gave the fourth class an official campus tour and let them loosen up a bit before I turned them back over to their squad leaders and platoon sergeant (who do most of the yelling at them). In general, orientation week had calmed down a lot since when I went through it. This is mostly due to the natural changeover of officer and enlisted staff at the unit and our newer staff has revamped the program quite a bit. When I went through orientation week most of the things we did were run by the upperclassmen and they were given pretty free reign to essentially haze us. Although I don’t think that what I went through was necessarily a bad thing – hazing, of sorts, takes place in the military and serves a purpose – but it probably does not belong at this level of training (i.e. first exposure to military life for most of them). Our new orientation week has much less yelling, and everything we have the fourth class do serves some sort of purpose. They get a full eight hours of sleep a night and in general there is just a lot less stress placed on them. That is not to say what the fourth class just went through is easy, many of them struggled through most of the week and all of them should feel proud that they completed something harder than most civilians will ever be exposed to.
The fourth class graduate on Friday morning and then the entire unit comes together at Cass Park in downtown Ithaca and we have a barbeque. It gives everyone a chance to relax and for the fourth class to see that all of the people who had been yelling at them all week were actually just normal college students and probably their friends in the future. A lot of them had questions for me since they were quite confused about what my rank was (I was the only midshipman who wore the new MARPAT “digi-cams” with my name and US Marines embroidered on them – for reference, see my picture page) and I explained that midshipmen that have completed OCS have the privilege of wearing that uniform at the unit during their senior year. After the barbeque I got a cell phone call from some guys at Psi U who informed me to take out some money since they had just rented a stretch Hummer limo which we were going to be taking to Syracuse to pick up a fellow fraternity brother, Robby, from the airport. At this point, my brain immediately registered that temporarily my military life would be turned off for a week and Cornell orientation week was about to begin…
Cornell orientation week is undisputedly one of the best weeks of college. There is no work to do since classes have not yet started and most students come back for the entire week to relax and catch up with their friends. In addition, this is a great week for freshmen since they have just arrived on campus and it really gives them a chance to get to know each other and experience the social life of Cornell right away. Typically, the place to be during the week is Collegetown and what happens is that all of the upperclassmen who rent houses open them up and let the freshmen socialize and congregate on their lawns, porches, etc. I hesitate to compare it to Mardi Gras but it is an interesting phenomenon to see literally thousands of people crammed into the houses lining College Avenue. As the week just started last night and I went to sleep right after returning from Syracuse (I hadn’t taken a nap and been awake since 5 AM!) I will right more about the festivities as the week progresses.
A little more about Syracuse though… So, I start walking over to the house after the barbeque and hear the pleasant sound of a group of Psi U guys shouting my name from none other than the fine establishment that is CollegeTown Bagels. It was a beautiful afternoon, perfect for relaxing at “CTB,” and we hung out for a couple hours having some food and drink while catching up with the guys who had just gotten into town that afternoon. Finally, we got a phone call that the Hummer was waiting outside Psi U and that we needed to walk back and prepare to embark. The Hummer was pretty amazing – strobe lights, sodas on ice, plasma TVs, etc. The best part was that no one had told Robby we were coming to pick him up, in fact we had informed him that a brother who was not even in our entourage was driving to meet him. You can imagine his surprise when 16 guys roll up in a limo with the limo driver holding a sign out the window with his name on it. Robby is an emotional guy and I am convinced a saw at least one tear slip out as we pulled up. After picking him up, we grabbed dinner at the Carousel Mall and probably the highlight of the evening was a couple asking me, “Why are you guys all dress in t-shirts, blazers, and mesh lacrosse shorts? Did you all lose a bet or are you a members of a sports team?” To which I replied, “Neither, we are in a fraternity.” The male member of the couple laughed and said, “That was my guess.”
It was a pretty fun evening and if it is any indication of what is to come this week and hopefully all next year I am sure this will be an entertaining year and thus an entertaining blog.