FORT PICKETT, Va. –
Cadets enrolled in the Virginia Army National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program, or SMP, spent three days honing their military skills April 16-18, 2021, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Approximately 80 cadets from universities across Virginia attended.
The SMP allows individuals to participate in both the National Guard and their university’s ROTC program. They earn a monthly paycheck for drilling once a month, and gain valuable experience and training that sets them up for future success as they work toward their commission.
Over three days, the cadets worked their way through a variety of training events. They completed a ruck march, worked their way through a land navigation course, experienced the new Army Combat Fitness Test, gained familiarization with mortars, practiced their marksmanship skills in the EST 2000, learned about the operations orders process and took to the skies on board two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
“We gear our training specifically for what they do at advanced camp so they’re already a step ahead of their peers,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Brian Adams, the Virginia National Guard’s on-campus recruiter at Virginia Tech and the assistant noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the SMP. Success at advanced camp is a big deal for the cadets, Adams said, explaining that they are ranked based largely on their grades there and that branch selection is largely based on that ranking.
“It’s hugely important for them to get the branch that they want when they commission so they’re not stuck in a branch they hate,” Adams said. “Typically, all of our cadets [at Virginia Tech] that are in the SMP get their top three branch choice, so that’s pretty huge.”
SMP cadets typically train together by region, but the April training event was a unique opportunity to get cadets from across the state to train together, share their experiences and learn from one another.
“Sometimes ROTC programs, depending on the program, can’t provide this kind of training or these opportunities there locally, so the ability to come together and see cadets from other schools, interact with them, getting hands-on with the Black Hawk and just learn something different, it’s good,” said Cadet Constantine Kit. Before starting college, Kit completed a stint in the U.S. Army Reserve and an overseas deployment to Jordan. He’s familiar with many of the basic Soldier skills taught in ROTC and at the SMP drills, but still found the training valuable.
“That land nav course was pretty challenging,” he said, adding that he’s generally a pretty good land navigator and that he found the brief lesson on mortars to be particularly educational. “I love this program. I think it’s a great opportunity for the cadets and I hope the training like this keeps up.”
In addition to the training opportunities provides to the SMP cadets, many also appreciate the monthly paycheck and have taken advantage of scholarship opportunities that have reduced or erased the burden of paying for college.
Cadet Jordan Goldsmith, a student at James Madison University, said he’s maximizing the use of his National Guard benefits while attending school.
“In terms of money and benefits, [in the SMP] your time in service starts sooner, so when you commission as an officer, you’ll be making more money every month,” Goldsmith said, explaining that he’s using his G.I. Bill and state tuition assistance, and is taking advantage of the National Guard’s low-cost health insurance option as well. “I’m not really paying for school too much.”
Cadet Jake Glauber, a student at Virginia Tech, is a recipient of the Minuteman Scholarship, which covers not only the cost of his college education, but also an annual book allowance and a monthly stipend. Recipients of the Minuteman Scholarship are required to participate in the SMP and will serve in the National Guard once they earn their commission.
“Honestly, it’s been pretty cool,” Glauber said. “We started with a ruck, then we went into some land nav, which was pretty challenging, but that will help prepare me for my cadet summer training, and then we did ACFT prep, and now we’re out here flying in a Black Hawk, so that’s pretty awesome.”
To learn more about the SMP, click here
, and to learn more about the Minuteman Scholarship and additional scholarship opportunities, click here