- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) The events of September 11 and military action in Afghanistan have had a profound effect on college campuses nationwide. But for upperclassmen at the Virginia Military Institute and in Virginia Tech's Corps of Cadets, current events have a much deeper meaning.
For many, the prospect of a drawn-out war against terrorism is forcing them to rethink their post-graduation plans and giving new meaning to the word "commission."
While cadets at both Tech and VMI are not required to commit to the military, many do anyway. On average, more than 40 percent of VMI's graduates have been commissioned as junior officers in the past seven years. Roughly 80 percent of the corps' members are part of a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) unit.
Chris Brander, 21, arrived three years ago at VMI in Lexington, Va., fully expecting upon graduation to enlist in the Army as an officer. During his freshman year, however, Mr. Brander changed his mind. Now just months from graduation, he is poised to land a big-money job selling corporate insurance after college.
Then September 11 changed everything again.
"I was just extremely mad," he said. Mr. Brander now sees himself "over there," wherever that may be.
"I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't go over there," he said.
For others, such as Tech's Chris Schlobohm, the attacks on New York and the Pentagon and the lingering threat of more terrorism have brought a new sense of purpose to their training. While Mr. Schlobohm, a 21-year-old senior from Brewster, N.Y., has always taken his physical fitness seriously, the Navy ROTC member's workouts and drills have been driven by a new sense of urgency since September 11.
"I think for the seniors in the corps, it came as a major reality check," Mr. Schlobohm said.
The war and terrorists are a constant topic in casual conversation and during classes. ROTC units at both schools also talked about or even received briefings on the situation.
For Mike Zanetti, a VMI senior from New York, the war means that his service to country will be more meaningful, instead of just "sacrificing my time."
"If anything, my attitude now is, I'll get to contribute."
Mr. Zanetti, who lost seven friends in the attacks on the World Trade Center, came to VMI because he thought a taste of military life would be good for him before a career in business and politics.
He signed up for a commission in the Army and hopes to serve his time in an armor or artillery unit. "Hey, if I'm going in the Army, I might as well go all out," he said.
Steve Froehlich, a 20-year-old Tech junior from Vienna, said members of his ROTC unit are taking their commitment to the military more seriously. At the same time, he has noticed that the rest of the student body at Tech is taking a greater interest in them and even showing more respect to the corps members.
Mr. Froehlich, who will be commissioned into the Navy upon graduation, said the sudden outbreak of war caught some people off guard. But the prospect of going abroad does not worry him as much as the safety of Americans at home.
"I'm more nervous about the Taliban owning nuclear weapons and terrorist groups here than what's going to happen when I graduate," Mr. Froehlich said. "To be honest, I'll probably feel safer aboard the aircraft carrier than in the middle of New York City."
Others sound ready to ship out tomorrow, if asked.
"I think of myself killing as many of them as I can," said Mr. Brander, the VMI senior.


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