As rooks gain ‘recognition,’ a look back at how times have changed in the corps

The rook class of 2015 and symbols of their recognition into the Norwich Corps of Cadets.

The rook class of 2015 and symbols of their recognition into the Norwich Corps of Cadets.

Congratulations to the rook class of 2015 on your recent recognition as cadets of Norwich. As you celebrate your accomplishment and revel in your new freedom, take a moment to reflect on those who came before you. Many professors you see in the classroom were once in a similar position. Here are a couple of their memories.

Prof. Mike Kelley,
Associate Professor, David Crawford School of Engineering. Rook Class of ‘70

We wore white name tags throughout the spring, and while we were in a much more relaxed mode of operations, I don’t believe that we were ever formally recognized.

I remember learning that I had been “promoted” for sophomore year to corporal – regimental runner. I had gone down to the uniform tailoring shop and had sewed on my corporal chevrons on my blues and greens.

It was during the time just before final exams in the spring. I was coming up the hill (I lived in Goodyear) with my uniforms over my shoulder. The regimental commander designee leaned out of his window (from Goodyear) and remarked about my rank on my uniforms.

That simple gesture made me feel really good. I had successfully finished freshman year and was now looking forward to returning for cadre week and the start of my future at NU.

Maj. Steve Gagner, Assistant Professor of Military Science – 1
Rook Class of ‘96

Recognition was normally sprung upon the freshmen, either at chow or at a parade or formation. There was (previously) no marching down to Plumley or Shapiro in dress uniform.

The Regimental Commander would simply order the rooks to their feet and start a deliberately painful and long diatribe: “Freshmen! I, Mark Anese, on the 15th day of the 12th month in the year of our Lord 1996, do hereby recognize…” which was always met with a resounding chorus from the rest of the Corps of Cadets: “NOOOOO!!!! Mark, don’t do it!”

Cadet Colonel Mark Anese ordered us to our feet many times in the weeks leading to our ultimate recognition and delivered this spiel, often followed by an agonizing pause which caused us all to hope beyond hope that today would be the day… Alas, he would end with something to the effect of “…that you have not yet met the standards of the Corps of Cadets and…”

Occasionally, we would be granted a small privilege, like the ability to listen to a Walkman (CD Player) for 5 minutes a day with headphones in our room or the privilege of owning a 1-foot by 3-foot Norwich University rug in our room, but not the recognition as cadets that we had hoped for.

Other days, he would revoke a previously granted privilege for vague and nondescript offenses our class had committed. Over and again this would happen.

I remember recognition well, however. The Cadre started beating on our doors and blowing whistles like it was Rook Week and had us exercising and changing uniforms again and again. In the shuffle, my service cap was switched with a rook buddy’s whose head was two sizes smaller than mine.

We marched down to Shapiro Field House as though it were a Corps parade. Cadet Colonel Anese addressed us and we felt the familiar build-up of excitement and anticipation, which was quickly tempered by the memories of the previous phony recognition ceremonies. Strangely different in this instance, however, was the Corps Senior class, crowded on the balcony by the climbing wall.

Before Anese started the typical recognition speech intro, they began tapping their rings on the metal railing. That sound echoed throughout the field house and, for a moment, I forgot that my head was pounding and feeling as though it would implode from wearing a hat that was ridiculously too small.

And then it happened. “…recognize you as Cadets in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets.” We stood at attention silently, not knowing if this was another cruel prank or, if it wasn’t, how to appropriately react. I remember hearing a Bravo Company Cadre member say from the formation next to us “You just got recognized, and no one is cheering?!” We exploded in cheers and hugs.

The cadre allowed us to celebrate for a few minutes before Col. Anese brought us all back to reality: “Half-right, face! Front leaning rest position, move!”

We knocked out several dozen push-ups in cadence and, for the first time that year, were joined in the PT by our cadre: 1st Sgt. Melissa Levy, Drill Sgt. Kevin O’Connor, Guidon Bearer Pete Manucci, Squad Leaders Ron Mazel, Pat Brown, and Tim Higgins, Corporals Rob Mazel (Ron’s little brother), Hansen “Honeybuns” Mack, and Joanna Owens. Most vividly, however, I remember watching our company commander, Ryan Welch, with a freshly broken arm in a cast, knock out all of the push-ups one-handed.

We then marched up to the Upper Parade Ground and our cadre led us running across the UP – back then a privilege reserved for all Cadets.

That was the last time I crossed the UP that year, however, as the Commander decided that Freshmen wouldn’t have that privilege until later in the year (which turned out to be the start of our sophomore year). Oddly enough, I see that “tradition” still happening today.

We were officially Norwich Cadets – a title I’m still proud to have held, 20 years later. There is something to finally earning the title of Norwich Cadet: a recognition of having persevered an experience that 99.9 percent of college-bound students would never attempt.

A recognition that we succeeded where 20-30 percent of the class we started with did not. A recognition that we weren’t out getting drunk and partying until all hours, rather waking up early for PT and making our bodies better and stronger. A recognition of walking in the gutter until we earned our place. A recognition of the camaraderie that most will never understand, an experience most will never attempt, and therefore a profound pride most will never feel. In this way, I think that “Recognition” is the perfect title for the transition from Rook to Cadet.

Congratulations, Cadets of the class of 2019. You’ve persevered and earned your place amongst the 197 classes before you who have earned that title.

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