Precision will be on display April 19, as members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets participate in the annual Jaffe Eager Squad and Eager Individual drill competitions.

Drill, or marching, is a military tradition rooted in the need to move troops from place to place in an orderly fashion. Virginia Tech cadets learn drill as soon as they arrive on campus for New Cadet Week, and they continue to hone their skills throughout their cadet careers.

The event includes both a squad and an individual competition for selected first-year and sophomore cadets from 3 to 6 p.m. between Pearson Hall and the Moss Arts Center.

The community is invited to watch the competition — which will stress precision and unison in motion — but asked to not distract the cadets who are competing.

Cadets put in hours of practice time in the months leading up to the competition, said Nelson Demarest, a junior majoring in civil engineering and in the corps’ Citizen-Leader Track program. Demarest was the top sophomore cadet in last year’s competition.

“The biggest thing that helped me was being able to focus and train when it was training time,” said Demarest, who led a squad of first-year cadets in addition to participating in the individual competition. “When I look back, it did take a lot of effort. But if you work on your craft a little each day, it truly isn't that much to manage. It is all about the work ethic and mindset you commit yourself to.”

The Jaffe Eager Squad Trophy, presented to the winning squad, is named in honor of the late Jeff Jaffe, a member of the Corps of Cadets' Class of 1942. Each of the 11 members of the winning squad earns a cash award made possible by a trust established by Jaffe. 

Jaffe was a member of his unit's Eager Squad when he was a cadet, and the experience meant so much to him that he wanted to make sure it continued. Beginning in 2004, Jaffe donated the money to purchase the trophy and plaque, as well as annually giving the monetary award for the winning cadets.

For the individual competition, the top first-year cadet is recognized with the Lt. Edward Raney Freshman Proficiency Award. The top sophomore receives the John E. Hill Memorial Sophomore Proficiency Award.

“It felt pretty awesome to win the sophomore proficiency award,” Demarest said. “It proves that through hard work you can really achieve your goals. Winners win because of their work ethic, mentality, and the ones around them that make them better. The other people on the squad and others who gave me advice and guidance were without a doubt the biggest help and reason why I earned the award.”

Members of the winning squad and the two individual winners wear a special patch on their uniform designating their accomplishment.

The Corps of Cadets conducts the competitions in accordance with FM 22-5, the Army’s Field Manual on Drill and Ceremonies. All rifles used do not have firing pins.

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