Fridays at the Mother I, as she is affectionately known, are always a great day. The week is winding to a close, and as soon as each Cadet gets finished with his or her classes, they can look forward to a short break from lectures and labs until Monday. Also, when the whether is good, there is an afternoon parade. Usually much grumbling comes from the throats of each Cadet. One more thing to fill up their already busy schedules. But still, the Corps begins preparations for Parade, except for those who have found a way out of it.
Usually poorly shaven, shoes unshined, belt drooping below the waist, the First Class Private is a master of working the system, The Game as it is referred to by Cadets and Administration alike, and the First Class Private plays the game better than anyone else. But even the most unkempt Cadet makes sure that he can shave using his shoes as a mirror, that his brass could be used to summon aircraft, his drill and rifle manual is crisp and clean, and that his feet are never out of step.
Each Cadet hopes and prays for rain, snow, even some horrible catastrophic event, just so they can hear those magical words over the turn out system: “Parade is cancelled.” But to the Corps’ chagrin, and despite the best efforts of the rain dancers, the only turn out to be heard is “Parade will form up at 1635 hours.” You can’t always get what you want and soon enough 1635(4:35 PM) rolls around and every cadet, from Hardcore Alpha to Cold Steel Charlie to Hard Charging Hotel, form up and prepare for an hour of drill and ceremonies.
*More pictures and whatnot after the jump.
After the Corps forms up, the Regimental Band begins to play and march out onto the Parade Grounds led by the Regimental Commander and his staff. The tune that can be heard throughout all of Post is a longtime VMI favorite, Oh, Shenandoah. The bagpipes echo loudly and each Keydet marches in time with the beat of the drums. Each left foot hits the ground as the the bass drum sounds. And so the Corps issues forth from the large gaping mouth that is Stonewall Jackson Arch. There is but one purpose now as they mount the field, to get through Parade and to do so well.
The companies take their places one by one, each following the lines painted onto the field the day before by the Regimental S1 Staff. The band plays on throughout this and the crowd gathers in the stands and along Letcher Avenue to watch the spectacle about to unfurl before them. People come from far and wide to watch the Corps pass in review. This day there are parents, alumni, prospective cadets, and a Boy Scout troop here to visit. They had all hoped the weather would stay dry and the rain clouds to the south would stay away for one more day. They have and it is a beautiful Friday afternoon and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The spectators stand in awe, gazing at the impressive display before them put on by “the Corps of Cadets of the Virgina Military Institute, founded on November 11, 1839. . .” as is explained by the announcer, a Cadet himself. Each movement, each command, the uniforms, and the procession are all little changed from very first days of the Institute. And it goes unmentioned that the Corps looks good, just as it always has and always will.
And now each man is in his place and everything is ready. “Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallll Innnn!” “Dreeeeesss and Coveeeeeerrrr!” “Reeeeeeeeport!” “Post!” These are the commands given. Then the band sounds off, playing same song it has played millions of times, marching the same path it has marched countless times. The crowd claps, thoroughly impressed, and the Superintendent takes his position. The Regimental Commander calls the Company Commanders into the center and then dismisses them. Then the Color Guard takes center stage to pay the proper respect to the Star And Stripes. The Regimental Commander then reports into the Superintendent, and the Corps follows the proper customs and courtesies. And then the fun begins.
The Corps is now drilled in proper rifle manual. “Pooooooooooort h’Arms!” “Riiight Shoooooooouldeer h’Arms!” “Leeft Shooooulder h’Arms!” “PreSENT h’Arms!” And then the Corps is led through something only it is authorized to do. “Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiix Bayo-NETS!” Screams the Regimental S1 Captain. The Corps earned the privilege to fix bayonets during Parade by fighting as a single combat unit during the Battle of New Market.
The snare drums now start rolling a strong, steady cadence — and then the bass drums hit. All of a sudden each Cadet moves as one and swings their rifles into place. The drums keep rolling. The next beat and the bayonets are unsheathed and placed overtop rifles. The next beat and they are locked into place. The next and the report of each Cadet slapping the side of his rifle can be heard. The next beat and each Cadet is back at the position of attention. Next comes the long-awaited command to end this day’s Parade. “Paaaaaaaass Iiiiinnnn Reevieeeeeewwwwww!” Yells the Regimental Commander. Even though they are not audible, the is a mutual sigh of relief as each Cadet wants this to be over.
The Band strikes up again and plays the Corps off of the Parade Grounds as each company makes its way to march past the Superintendent. As each company passes they perform an eyes right when given the command: “Readeee! Eeeeeyyes h’Right!” The Superintendent gives a crisp salute in return as each platoon passes. When past the Superintended the Cadets snap straight-ahead as the command “Readeee. . . F’runt!” is given. This entire time they maintain proper spacing for close order drill, all while marching in step with the drums. Soon the Corps is off of the Parade Ground and the last Cadet has passed through Washington Arch and the band done playing for the day. The crowd slowly packs up, to return from whence they came, all well pleased with today’s Parade. The Cadets are all back in their rooms, the Rats all straining, the First Class Privates quickly stripping off their full coatee and cross-dykes. Slowly things return to normal. And apparently the civilians weren’t the only ones pleased by today’s performance. A turn-out is issued: “For today’s performance during Parade, the ENTIRE Corps has haydown.” And Cheers echo through Barracks.