FORT PICKETT, Va. –
Approximately 70 cadets, all enrolled in the Virginia Army National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program, came together to hone their military skills during a multi-day field training exercise held April 22-24, 2022, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The cadets, simultaneously enrolled in both ROTC and the Virginia Army National Guard, came from colleges and universities across the state for the training. Recruiters and staff assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion ran the event.
“The Simultaneous Membership Program is a unique opportunity where Soldiers who enlist with us who are also enrolled in ROTC get to train one weekend a month as a drilling National Guard member,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Steven Knichel, the on-campus recruiter for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. “They get the full experience while attending college full-time.”
SMP cadets earn a monthly paycheck for drilling once a month, are eligible for a variety of benefits through the National Guard and gain experience operating in a military environment before attending ROTC Advanced Camp the summer after their junior year of college.
“It’s the best way to do ROTC in my opinion,” said Cadet Fabio Corbera, a junior at Christopher Newport University. He enlisted into the Virginia National Guard right after high school and completed basic and advanced training before being assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group. After returning from training, he enrolled at CNU and asked his unit for information on how to use his benefits. “I had great leadership that pointed me in the right direction.”
Now, three years into his college experience, Corbera is debt free. He uses state and federal tuition assistance to pay for school and in addition to his drill pay, he receives a monthly stipend from the Montgomery G.I. Bill and ROTC.
“I don’t pay anything out of pocket for school,” Corbera said. Additionally, Corbera and his fellow SMP cadets get a head start on their time in service, which started immediately upon their entry into the National Guard. “For me, this is the best thing ever because by the time I commission, I’ll probably have 4-5 years time in service. It’s amazing.”
Over the course of the weekend, the cadets gained familiarization with the M4 carbine, practiced battle drills and honed their warrior skills with training lanes.
“I’m getting more experience as to what I could possibly be doing at advanced camp, so this is basically putting me in a better position for when I go in two years,” said Cadet Qu Nmashie, who had a built-in battle buddy for the weekend. He and his brother, Cadet Lawrence Nmashie, both freshman at George Mason University, are both enrolled in the SMP. They completed basic training together, too, where they were even assigned to the same platoon. Both Nmashies are recipients of the Minuteman Scholarship, which covers tuition, provides 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 upon their commissioning.
“My dad’s in the National Guard and the lifestyle he lives kind of pushed me in this direction,” Lawrence said. “When I found out about the Minuteman, I thought this would be the path I want to take.”
Both said the weekend of training allowed them to conduct more hands-on training than what they experience during a typical drill weekend.
“It’s been pretty cool and it’s been really interesting to experience so much through ROTC and being [in the] SMP,” said Lawrence. “It gives me a nice perspective.”
While the brothers had each other to support them through their training experience, Cadet Nicole Adams relied on a little help from above. Growing up, she thought military service sounded like an interesting opportunity, but wasn’t sure she had the tenacity for such an endeavor. Then, she got an email from Staff Sgt. Micajah Lacy, the on-campus recruiter at James Madison University, where Adams is studying psychology.
“It listed the perks of ROTC and being enlisted while you’re in ROTC and it was like, yeah, that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Adams said. “I’m very religious and I just felt like this is God’s path for me.”
She went home to tell her family about her decision and was in the National Guard within a matter of weeks. Then, she found the tenacity to complete basic and advanced training as a 12B Combat Engineer.
“That was awesome,” she said of the training. She joined ROTC as a lateral entry, which means she started the program her junior year. Before joining the National Guard and the SMP, she was paying for college largely with loans. Now, she’s using federal tuition assistance and help from the Montgomery G.I. Bill and has already started paying back her debt, which, she says, “is all because of the Army.”
Click here to learn more about the Simultaneous Membership Program
or click here to learn more about the Minuteman Scholarship