For one group of students, bonds were formed while scaling walls and maneuvering over obstacles during the first Friday of the fall semester.

“I can already feel us becoming a big team,” said Harshit Singh, a junior majoring in computational modeling and data analytics.

For Singh and 29 other Virginia Tech students across eight academic colleges, the start of the fall semester marked the start of their journey in the inaugural year of the Defense Civilian Training Corps

To cap off their first week of classes, the students gathered for an evening orientation, which included a tour of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and team-building activities on the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ obstacle course. 

The obstacle course features both Marine Corps and U.S. Army obstacles used for the benefit of cadets to improve their strength, stamina, and coordination. The Defense Civilian Training Corps scholars were welcomed onto the course as a cohort to build the skill of self-efficacy and learn to rely on each other to achieve success.

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The pilot interdisciplinary scholarship and talent development program will provide students with defense-related coursework, immersive learning experiences on campus, a summer internship, and facilitate job placement within the Department of Defense upon graduation. It also provides students with an opportunity to build friendships and collaborate with public-service minded students from different majors to solve complex, real-life national security problems.

“I’m already making so many new friends who I probably never would have met otherwise because we’re in completely different classes,” Singh said. “It’s especially been great to spend time with the Corps of Cadets students. They were really able to show us the ropes at the obstacle course.”

And it’s not just the students whose teamwork is making the pilot program a success.

At Virginia Tech, the Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC) will be co-led by the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, part of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, and the Corps of Cadets, furthering their long-existing relationship.

“The Corps of Cadets and Hume Center have a history leading the development of national security leaders on campus together,” said Laura Freeman, deputy director of the National Security Institute. “Prior collaborations through the Senior Military Cyber Institute have supported student scholarship and experiential learning activities. This relationship and trust were essential in shaping a quick launch of the Defense Civilian Training Corps pilot program that leverages the full capabilities of our collective organizations.”

Virginia Tech was one of four universities selected by the Department of Defense's (DOD) Acquisition Innovation Research Center to participate in the pilot program in part because of the university’s history as a senior military college and the strong national security related workforce development efforts already taking place on campus.

“As a senior military college, Virginia Tech, in part through the Corps of Cadets' leader development program, focuses on developing leaders of character with a desire for service. This is reflected in our school motto, Ut Prosim, or That I May Serve,” said Capt. Jamie McGrath, director of the Corps of Cadets’ Maj Gen W. Thomas Rice Center for Leader Development. “When married with the National Security Institute’s focus on developing relationships and tackling challenges in the national security arena, our DCTC scholars will be prepared to immediately engage and lead as the DOD addresses the nation's most challenging national security issues."

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