A total of 360 cadets joined together in full army fatigues on a blustery Saturday to participate in the 13-mile, semi-annual Caldwell March.
The march, first performed in 1997 by 10 cadets and one civilian to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of Virginia Tech, honors the first student enrolled at Tech, Addison Caldwell.
Commandant Col. Ed Schwabe said Caldwell marched 26 miles from his homestead in Craig County to become the first student at Tech.
The cadets trekked 13 miles on mainly trails and back roads from the Caldwell Homestead to Caldwell Field. The second half of the Caldwell march is completed in the spring, with cadets hiking the final 13 miles from Caldwell Fields to the university.
?The route is the most likely route Caldwell would have followed using maps of the roads in existence in 1872,? Schwabe said.
This is the fourth year the march has been conducted as a regular part of the freshman cadet experience, Schwabe said. Every cadet makes the march as part of the requirement to be in the Corps.
Freshman cadet Matthew Roberts, said the walk required the freshmen to pull together as a group to help each other accomplish the goal of completing the march.
He said there was an instance when a cadet with asthma had trouble hiking up a hill, but that the cadets around her were able to help motivate her to fight through the pain.
?(The march) was rough, but do-able,? Roberts said. ?I know I was definitely sore afterwards.?
Approximately 270 freshman cadets participated in the march, which signifies a transition from the red phase to the white phase. Freshman cadets must complete three phases - red, white and blue, before becoming an upperclassman.
Regimental Commander Daniel Richardson said the completion of the march symbolizes the transition from cadre to a chain of command. In the red phase, freshman cadets are led by a cadre or specialized instructors, while the white phase employs upperclassmen to lead the cadets.
?The red phase is the toughest phase for freshmen because everything is so new and demanding,? Schwabe said. ?The white phase places more attention on upperclassmen.?
The march ended with a bang.
At the completion of the march, the cadets were bused back to Tech?s upper-quad, where freshman cadets broke up into their training companies. A cannon was fired to commemorate the successful completion of the red phase, while the freshman cadets chanted and engaged in a little more physical activity, such as push-ups and jumping jacks.
Roberts said the march was mostly a physical way to affirm to himself that he was making the transition as a cadet.
In addition to fulfilling their physical goal with the completion of the march, freshman cadets gained some new privileges. These include full-hair privileges as indicated in the Corps of Cadets handbook and the ability to wear civilian clothes after 1700 hours during the academic work week.