Eighteen weeks. That’s how long it took. Eighteen weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, pleasure and pain; and let us not forget, hard work. Eighteen weeks starting on 19 August 2006 and ending on 20 January 2007. Eighteen weeks to go from a gaggle of prospective cadets to Rats and then to 4th Classmen. Eighteen weeks culminating in one long, final day of Hell called Break Out. One last day of physical and mental challenges that would make even the toughest individuals in our class think about quitting, giving up, packing it in and calling it a day. And whenever that thought crossed our minds, we looked to our Brother Rats beside us, and drew strength knowing that if they could keep going, we could too. But I’m getting ahead of myself, allow me to tell the story of how the Class of 2010 became a class.
It started as any other week returning from Christmas furlough. We were greeted with a sweat party and fell back into the normal routine we had just left three short weeks before. But this was different, rumors abounded and were passed through the network that was the Rat Mass of 2007+3. Rumors of the end, rumors of Break Out, of our final trials and tribulations. Some said it was still a far way off, others held out hope that it was soon, others said that this was to be our last week. We were excited.
That Saturday we awoke, but instead of our normal day-to-day uniforms(called Class Dyke) we donned boots, BDUs, field jackets, and grabbed our rifles for an early morning rifle run. But before this run we were shuffled inside Jackson Memorial Hall(the chapel/meeting hall for the Corps) and were given a speech by the Rat Disciplinary Committee(RDC: in charge of running the Ratline) president and the Commandant of Cadets, both saying that we had been at this a long time, and that in these coming weeks we were to prove ourselves if we wanted to ever see the end of the Ratline. We were told that that day could have been the end, but we had screwed up, let our Dykes(1st Classmen assigned to each Rat who help mentor them through their first year in exchange for menial tasks) down, and had not proven ourselves. But this speech and the rifle run only served to further excite us, as we could now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That next Sunday, Virgin Night was held. This was the final session that the RDC
held its final sweat party, and all those who had not attended one of the previous sessions were invited. They returned exhausted, but in one of the greatest shows of unity up to that date, they all strained and shouted “BROTHER RAT!!!! *clap-clap*” at the top of their lungs as they returned to their rooms. This stirred the rest of the Rats, those not invited, to start shouting along, and soon almost the entirety of the Rat Mass was shouting, together. And so ended the first night, the beginning of Resurrection Week, our final week as Rats.
That Monday saw more suffering. We all reported to our Dykes rooms at noon, to be pushed. To be screamed at and strained, by our Dykes, our friends, those whom we trusted, and those very same people we did not want to disappoint by going about this final week lackadaisically. That afternoon saw all those Rats who did not play an NCAA sport doing more PT with the RDC. And that night we all crawled into our racks, exhausted. And so ended the second day of the Resurrection.
Tuesday saw us being awoken early, for a sweat party. This particular party was provided to us by the 3rd Class. We put out, not wanting to disappoint, and went to breakfast exhausted. At noon we returned to our Dykes rooms for another round of abuse, and we received it. That night we once again crawled into our racks dead tired. And this was the third day of the Resurrection.
Wednesday began like most days of the week, but it would not end that way. We returned to our Dykes rooms and pushed some more but we were happy. We were getting closer, and we knew it. We could feel the end drawing nearer and we were elated. That night we received a sweat party hosted by the 2nd Class. We put out once again, and once again returned to our racks for much needed sleep. And so ended our fourth day.
Our fifth day was to see more of the same. Non-NCAA athlete Rats were subjected to more PT with the RDC, but other than that, the heat was turned down and we were allowed to rest, but that would not last for long. That night at Taps saw the end of the fifth day of the Resurrection, and we all went to sleep with dreams of being 4th Classmen dancing in our heads.
Friday. The second to last day. The end was near, we could sense it, but we would not get off easily, nor did we expect to. At noon we suffered through one last push session with our Dykes. We pushed until our arms felt as if they were about to fall off, and then we pushed some more, until we collapsed, we could not get bogged down now. We got a reprieve that afternoon with Parade canceled, but that night was to hold special surprises for us. We were all told to go to the wrestling match that evening, so we went, but we did not pay much attention to the game. We enjoyed the company of our Brother Rats, and hardened our hearts for what was to come. After the wrestling match we were given a sweat party, this time by our Dykes. Here we were worked half-death, but we kept going. Some puked, others passed out, more still could barely make it back to barracks. But as we returned we strained and shouted “BROTHER RAT! *clap-clap*” at the top of our lungs. We were delirious, and no amount of yelling from the RDC could deter us, we were going to finish this out together, or die trying. And so ended the sixth day of the Resurrection of the Rat Mass of 2007+3. We went to bed and slept, for we knew the next morning was to come early and we would need all the sleep and energy we could get.
And indeed the morning of the 20th came early. We awoke to the sound of gunfire and explosives in the courtyard. And soon the RDC was kicking in our doors. Telling us to get out on the stoops and strain. We then ushered down to the Cocke Hall gymnasium for a sweat party, this time hosted by Cadre, our tormentors from Hell Week. We were physically wasted from the week, but somehow managed to survive the party. We then went to breakfast, where we forced ourselves to eat, knowing that we would need the calories to make it over what was to come. From there we returned to Barracks to meet Cadre who then ran us through nine different stations of various exercises, like running up and down five flights of stairs continuously or doing lunges around the basketball stadium or doing 220-yard sprints around the indoor track. Things along these lines. And after those four hours of physical torment we returned to Barracks, dead tired. But this was not the end. The end was still a distant fantasy.
We returned to a sweat party hosted by the 2nd and 3rd Classes. They offered to show the way to our salvation from being Rats; to help turn us into 4th Classmen. And so they purged our sins. Then we stumbled back up to our rooms to change into BDUs for the next trial set before us; and we rested.
After changing we headed down to lunch, where if we did not clean out the mess hall, we certainly came close. From there we returned to Jackson Memorial Hall, where we had sat the previous Saturday and received a pep talk from the President of the 1st Class. He asked us if we wanted to Break Out, and all he got in return was a n earth-shattering “YES, SIR!!!” He left it at that and we moved on to our next trial, a sandbag run. We ran a mile and a half with 20 pound sandbags. Some struggled, but we kept them going, pushed them, encouraged them, kept them going; because that is what Brother Rats are supposed to do. And then when we reached our destination, Jordan’s Point(a park beside the Maury River on the North end of Post), we were treated to a nice long session of sandbag PT. We lifted those damned sandbags in every different manner that our Cadre and the RDC could think of. Our arms grew tired, until we could no longer lift the sandbags. We were drenched in sand by the leaking bags. Sand went everywhere. We panted for breath, struggled, suffered, but found the strength and solidarity to keep going, because we would not fail our Brothers beside us. We could not fail.
We worked out with those sandbags for what seemed like an eternity, and then we were told to drop them and form up around the RDC president. He asked us if we wanted to Break Out, and received the same answer as the 1st Class president, “YES, SIR!!!” He asked us again, and received the same answer yet again, “YES, SIR!!” But this time he was satisfied. And he told us we had but one final test, one last hurdle, one last seemingly insurmountable objective. . .
As the president of the RDC had us gathered around him, he divulged to us our final task. We were to pull three 105mm Howitzers a total of one mile up Supe’s Hill, and each gun weighed in at two tons. So we all grabbed a hold of the ropes and started pulling, three companies to one gun. And we pulled, with all of our might, every ounce of strength we had left. Smiles spread across our faces, and shouts of joy rang in the air. The end was drawing closer with every step. We hauled it up the hill, no longer feeling fatigue, nor the pain in our bodies. We just kept moving. And as we turned the final corner to the parade deck we almost started running. And we stopped, and we stood around and hugged eachother and shouted, some cried, other laughed and cheered.
When all of us had arrived, we all gathered around once more and received a speech from the president of each class in Barracks. Each one presented us with a shell, and then fired it off in our honor. And then the RDC president gave a speech congratulating us, telling us how proud he was of us, and then he presented us with a shell for our Class, and then fired it off. We then marched down a lane bordered by all of the upperclassmen, took our Class picture, and returned to Barracks to take a shower and prepare for supper. We then marched to supper and ate with our Dykes. There was a guest speaker and much congratulations. We then formed up outside the mess hall and marched perfectly back up to then and inside of Barracks. As we entered Jackson Arch, each row snapped into a perfect strain for the last time. We strained with pride now. We pinned our arms to our sides, racked our chin in, knocked our foreheads back, and puffed our chests out as far as we could. We then gathered around the Sentinel Box, atop of which were perched the presidents of the RDC and 1st Class, and around which was the entirety of the RDC. The RDC was then disbanded with solemnity. And the Old Yells were yelled for each class. One for the Class of 2009. One for the Class of 2008. One for the Class of 2007, our Dykes class. And then, we gathered our breath and gave one final Old Yell. This one was special. It was for the newest class in Barracks: the Class of 2010, Our Class. We shouted at the top of our lungs, until we could shout no longer. And we cheered and danced and shouted, for it was over. And so ended the seventh day. We had ended our civilian lives when we signed the Matriculation Book, descended into the Hell that was the Ratline, and now, now we had been Resurrected. Resurrected into Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute.