On a recent sunny Saturday, a small group of Washington & Lee High School students gathered around their battalion leaders and began their drills. Dressed smartly in their green and tan camouflage uniforms, the members of the W&L Virginia Defense Force Eagle Corp were back together after a long break due to COVID-19. Major Jim Stanley exclaimed, “We are excited about getting the Cadets back together to provide them with the opportunity to learn more about serving in the community and for some, perhaps in the military later in their careers.”

The first meeting started with a COVID safety brief followed by the military alphabet, number and time. Cadets were then moved outside for drilling and ceremony training, along with rank and customs. The students were introduced to using radios and conducted a communications exercise. They completed the day by cleaning their classroom and securing the school. As noted by Major Stanley, “We will adhere to both the Governor’s and Westmoreland County Schools’ guidance to providing a safe and healthy environment for learning and fun.”

The VDF cadets welcomed two new members, Amanda Wiley and Rosalynn Lewis.

They joined senior member Pvt. Jesse Jett in the exercises. Last year’s Cadets Lily Lucas, Ariel Smith, Abigail Bennett and Ziahra Thompson were unable to attend the first meeting but plan on returning to the December session. The students were led by instructors OIC Major, Jim Stanley; Senior Instructor, SFC Robert Greene; Instructor, Sgt. Mike Neglia; and guest instructor, Sgt. Michael Burke.

The Virginia Defense Force is an all-volunteer, formal military organization. Its mission is to assist the Virginia National Guard in performing state missions as specified by the Governor. All Cadets will be trained in land navigation, emergency management, color guard, teamwork, self-respect, patriotism and service. The VDF Eagle Corp will be supporting local events and festivals.

New Cadets are required to have parental permission, be a W&L student – as well as maintain good grades and behavior in school and the community – give their best efforts, attend drills and activities, be clean and neat, have a positive “can do” attitude, be part of the team and ask for help when they need it.

The VDF Eagle Corp meets the second Saturday of each month at Washington & Lee High School from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interested students may sign up at the front office at W&L.