The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets will celebrate its senior class on Feb. 11, with the 74th annual Senior Banquet and Military Ball.

Members of the Class of 2017 will be honored at the banquet, which begins at 5 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech, and then all seniors will be presented to the entire corps at the Military Ball, which follows at 7 p.m. in Commonwealth Ballroom of Squires Student Center.

The guest speaker will be Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe (retired). Grippe rose through the U.S. Army ranks to become the command senior enlisted leader for the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under Gen. James Mattis, now the U.S. secretary of defense.

Grippe will spend Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, on campus with cadets and the ROTC programs before speaking at the banquet Feb. 11.

At CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. security interests in 20 nations in the Middle East and central Asia, Grippe served as the bridge between the four-star commander and the troops.

“He is just one of the finest soldiers I have ever served alongside,” Mattis said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “He is a powerhouse of energy and a sound, very sound tactical leader who was my right-hand man every step of the way at CENTCOM.”

Mattis added that “it was a delight to watch him infuse his energy across the command. He is a wild man. I love the guy.” 

Now retired from the military, Grippe is a senior vice president for Spartan Race Inc., which organizes extreme obstacle course racing.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Willey of the corps’ 1st Battalion said Grippe will offer cadets lessons in global leadership and reinforce the corps’ mission of training and inspiring global, ethical leaders.

At the ball, the Highty-Tighties’ jazz ensemble, the Southern Colonels, will play introductory music and the Gregory Guard, the corps’ precision rifle drill team, will perform a rifle spin routine.

All seniors and their guests will then be presented and enter through a ceremonial saber arch provided by Sash and Saber, the corps’ Citizen-Leader Track Honor Society.

After the ball, at about 11:30 p.m., Skipper, the corps’ cannon, will be fired from the Drillfield, and three buglers will play Silver Taps at the Pylons, the April 16 Memorial, and outside War Memorial Gym. All are welcome to observe.

The Senior Banquet and Military Ball are planned and organized by the Scabbard and Blade Military Honor Society. The top 10 percent of ROTC cadets are selected in their junior year for membership in this prestigious national organization.

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