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Virginia Wing Encampment 2013
Hampton Roads Composite Squadron cadets participated in the annual "boot camp" known as Encampment. This 9-day event is a right of passage if any cadet wishes to attend N.C.S.A.s (National Cadet Special Activities) or become a cadet officer.
Encampment takes place at Fort Pickett, a US Army base created during WWII. The cadets stay in the barracks that were erected in late 1941. With no AC, it's very hot. Large fans blow around the musty air, with cadets stopping every once in a while in front of a fan to cool off. Female staff in the female barracks are constantly yelling to go faster, make your bunks, find your footlockers, and fill up your Camel Back.
From the moment you first arrive, you are petrified to even get out of the car and leave the safety of your parents' comfort.
Cadets are seen reading their S.O.P.s, Standard Operating Procedures. They must keep their arms up at a 90 degree angle, and keep it there, until told otherwise. Some have been reading for 10 or more minutes.
People are shouting so loud, and lose their voices from yelling and shouting so much.
After a few hours, cadets meet the rest of their flight and squadron. There are 4 squadrons, 2 flights per squadron. The flights are named from Alpha to Hotel. Squadrons are numbered from 1 to 4.
Females made their way to the male barracks after finishing their own, and someone shouts "Female on deck!" Any male may respond, "Clear!", or, "Not clear!" Females from Squadron 3 head upstairs to meet the males in their flights. They are instructed to help the males make up their bunks and footlockers and wall lockers.
Not half an hour later, they're called outside to form up for dinner. They stand at parade rest until the line moves forward, and they come to attention and take small steps until the person in front of them stops. This is called by the ripple. You can hear cadences being sung, songs that are shouted while marching or waiting in line. Most of the flights launch into the motivation cadence, while others do call-and-repeat cadences that represent their flights.
Chef Steve, a wonderful cook with awesome pajamas that he wears every day, and his staff patiently give each cadet food. They are required to thank them, and go to their seats. After getting their food, cadets find a table and wait at attention until the table is either full or the rest of their flight has been seated. They have limited time to eat, and most never even finish their food.
At night, cadets are being woken up randomly for C.Q., or watch. Their watch is an hour long, at a certain time. Some had 10 pm to 11 pm, or 2 am to 3 am, etc. But, at 6 am every morning (except the last 2 days), cadets get up for PT for an hour, and then head to chow.
Throughout the week, cadets take exhausting PT tests, go down the rappelling tower, complete the Leadership Reaction Course (many soaked to the bone with tadpole-infested water), go through the Obstacle Course, use the convoy and gun simulators, and go through a rigorous uniform and barracks inspection.
Each day, cadets are required to memorize information from their S.O.P.s before dinner. They are then tested on it by the S.E.T. team.
On day 8 out of 9, instead of dinner in the mess hall, they have to attend a Graduation Banquet at a nearby Army cafeteria. They are required to wear their dress blues, and have mostly unlimited time to eat. Squadrons sit together and talk, usually not allowed at regular chow, about how great their week has been and how much fun they've had.
On day 9, the last day, cadets prepare for Graduation. They pack up their things, clear out their lockers, fold up their sheets, and clean the barracks better than they found them--which is no easy feat. After shaking hands with the Commandant of Cadets, Major David A. Buslinger, and the Cadet Command Staff (Including Cadet Commander C/2dLt Ashley R. Hancock), and receiving an Encampment Challenge Coin, cadets sign out and find their long-awaited parents.
Heartfelt "Hello"s and "I missed you so much!"s are given out, along with tight, choking hugs. Cadets gather their things and leave Virginia Wing Encampment, 2013.