Wow... the past few days have been so busy that I've forgotten to write this rather important journal entry.
On January 30th, 2010... the Rat Mass of 2010+3... broke out of the Ratline.
We were awakened at 0500hrs to the sounds of M-16s firing blanks, our howitzer on the parade ground going off, and the sounds of screaming cadre. It was nine degrees and snowing with a foot already on the ground. What ensued was so physically challenging that even I, a rather fit athlete, struggled through the day. There was so much to the day that I will have to leave out a lot of details... and change some of the lingo and put things into terms easily understood by someone who doesn't go to VMI. We started the day with a sweatparty (a 15 minute HIGH-intensity workout including push-ups, flutter kicks, mountain climbers, sit-ups, high-knees, high-jumps, and lunges... all at very fast repetition), then we did 30 minutes of PT such as jumping jacks, arm circles (and it hurts after doing them for five minutes straight), and more. Then we had breakfast. After breakfast we did sprints on the indoor track, football reaction drills, climbed a rope, did more PT, and suicides. Then we pounded stairs for half an hour, did as many sets of 5-pull-ups-10-push-ups as we could do in fifteen minutes, did more suicides, braced in a sitting position against the wall and passed 50 pound sandbags down the line, broke into groups of six and sprinted with stretchers of sandbags, did lunges for fifteen minutes straight, and then did thirty more minutes of PT. Then we had lunch. It was only 1130hrs. After lunch we had a speech from the RDC President (RDC = Rat Disciplinary Committee... essentially an elite group of thirty senior cadets who are the equivalent of a Marine drill sergeant on steroids. You look at them like Hitler's SS during the Ratline, but in hindsight, they love us and wanted us to be the best we could be), which essentially disbanded the RDC and allowed them to approach us as allies, to help us break out. We then each got 50 pound sandbags and did two hours of sandbag PT, stuff like flutter kicks while holding the sandbag over our head, bicep curls, holding it out in front of us for five minutes with our arms straight... that sort of thing. After the sandbag PT, we were given our final "mission"... to BREAK OUT. The barracks at VMI are four stories high, with courtyards in the middle and staircases at each corner. On each landing were piles of sandbags... and it was the mission of the Rat Mass to storm barracks, get up the stairs, break through the sandbags, and make it to the 4th stoop... but the upperclassmen were out on their respective stoops with the intent of preventing us from getting to our top stoop. We charged the barracks with the RDC, now our allies, and advanced on the second stoop. The seconds were adamant about not giving us anything and they fought hard... but we broke through. Once we did... they gave us a sweatparty! Then we managed to get back to the stairs and crash through to the third stoop... only to be given another sweatparty. We didn't simply claw through the sandbags... it took about fifteen minutes to get through each set. We tore our way through the sandbags blocking the 4th stoop and found it empty. It was empty, but we had the feeling it wasn't over. Suddenly, the class of 2010, came out of our rooms. Each member of 2010 is a mentor to a member of the Rat Mass of 2010+3... hence the numbering. We are their product once they graduate, since they were the seniors in charge of training us. They shook our hands and gave us our black nametags (rats have to wear white tags on their shirts and upperclassmen get black ones). Then, they took us to the mess hall for a steak dinner to celebrate. We were then taken back to the barracks and gave cheers for the Class of 2007, who made the Class of 2010... then a cheer for 2010, who made us.... then, for the first time... we gave a cheer for the newest class in barracks, our class... the Class of 2013. After the cheers, we were told that we could let out our strains (an exaggerated and VERY uncomfortable position of attention). We were officially welcomed to the corps... no longer as rats... but as true VMI cadets. It was 2000hrs. We had been awake for seventeen hours, and fourteen of it had been some sort of PT.
Now, I can grow my hair out from an almost shaved buzz... I can talk outside of my room, I don't have to sit at attention and square my meals, I don't have to walk on straight lines and square my corners, I am allowed to listen to music, have a phone, and electric razor, an iPod, watch movies, have PC games, have headphones... I can go to bed before 2330hrs without getting yelled at, use any stairwell in barracks, and sit at any table in the mess hall with anyone I want. I can check for my mail before 1200 and can finally use personal pronouns like "I", "me", and "my", instead of "this rat" and "these rats".
So... now I am Cadet 4th Class Franklin D. Van Valkenburg, VMI Class of 2013!