Introduction and History of The Corps of Cadets As Well As The Rank Structure and Insignia
The cadets are grouped into two battalions, Mounted and Infantry. The Infantry Battalion companies are A, B, C (Academy), and G, H and I (College) while the Mounted Battalion consists of "D" Troop, "E" Battery, VFMAC Field Music (formerly also the Drum and Bugle Corps), and the VFMAC Regimental Band. Formerly, most College Cadets in the infantry battalion were assigned to "F" Company, but have been divided into "G", "H" and "I" Companies today. "I" Company had been named "I" Troop for all college cadets wishing to participate in equitation, and was once known as "I" Battery for college cadets participating in artillery, but it has now been moved to the infantry battalion as I Company today. Presently, Cadets of the Sixth, Fifth, and Fourth Classes (Grades 7, 8 and 9) are assigned to "C" Company; formerly, Cadets of the Middle School (Grades 7 and 8) were assigned to "E" Battery. During the years of highest enrollment, in the 1960s and 1970s, Cadets of the Middle School were assigned to "H" Company. During the 2009–2010 academic year, given rapid expansion in enrollment, College Cadets have since been assigned to "H" Company.
Initially, the Corps of Cadets was organized as a Squadron of Infantry Companies with a Cavalry Troop, under a Cadet Major, who wore five gold chevrons with an oak leaf. Cadet Captains wore four chevrons; Cadet Lieutenants wore three chevrons, Sergeants and Corporals three and two, respectively. Artillery made their debut in the Corps (as E Battery) in the 1930s. Later, the Corps was reorganized to three battalions: two infantry battalions and a mounted battalion (squadron) of one to two troops and one to two artillery batteries, thus becoming a full regiment or brigade in the process. The Corps was then headed by a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. The corps and the rank system has since evolved. It is headed by a Cadet First Captain today. Cadet officers wear gold rank stars or "pips." Pips are similar in design to the "Order of the Bath" rank stars worn by the British Army and the Royal Marines, except the three crowns have been replaced with an image of George Washington kneeling in the snow, from the painting "The Prayer at Valley Forge" by Henry Brueckner, and the motto "Tria Juncta In Uno" replaced with "Valley Forge Military Academy," as represented in the institutional coat of arms. (Before the design of the school "pips," Cadet Officers wore the British "pips" design.) The rank system is also adapted from those in the British Army, Royal Marines, the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps (only in the Cadet Lance Corporal enlisted rank).
During the 1950s to early 1960s the officer rank structure of the Corps of Cadets, VFMAC was:
- the Cadet Lieutenant Colonel wore 5 pips on his epaulettes plus the shoulder knots
- Cadet Majors, 4 pips
- Cadet Captains, 3 pips
- Cadet First Lieutenants, 2 pips
- Cadet Second Lieutenants, one pip on the epaulettes
Other ranks wore the chevrons on the sleeve and were ranked accordingly with a mix of British and US army and marine enlisted ranks.
The officer rank system was increased and improved in the 1960s with the introduction of additional Cadet Captain ranks (from Cadet Captain to Cadet 1st Cpt.) thus the officer ranks used today are from that decade.
On the Full Dress Uniforms, Cadet Officers wear rank insignia as on the "School Uniform", except that the Cadet First Captain wears braided shoulder knots with a full dress aiguillette in recognition of his role as the Corps Cadet Commander. Cadet Sergeants, Corporals and Lance Corporals wear chevrons on the sleeve: red chevrons on grey for the infantry battalion; red chevrons on black for the mounted battalion. All cadet officers' shoulder boards are blue save for the artillery unit which from 2012 now wears red shoulder boards after a long absence of their use. The full dress headdress is the Academy Capshield with the VFMAC institutional arms on it, worn on all full dress uniforms since 1980 replacing a shako styled cap with the arms. The institutional full dress is gray blue with black pants (for the Academy) and from 2009, all black polo and pants for the College.
On chapel services peaked caps with the arms are used with the full dress (formerly these were on the first full dress blue uniforms) while the school service uniform and the BDU includes the side cap and the colored berets (formerly the patrol caps, now sometimes worn), blue for the academy branch and red for the college branch, with green berets worn on certain occasions by the Academy cadets, similar to US Army Green Berets and Royal Marine Commandos. Recently, baseball caps are beginning to be worn during practice drills.
Academically, the school is organized into six classes, plus College Freshmen and College Sophomores. The Academy classes are as follows: First Class: Seniors (12th Grade); Second Class: Juniors (11th Grade); Third Class: Sophomores (10th Grade); Fourth Class: Freshman (9th Grade); Fifth Class: 8th Grade; and Sixth Class: 7th Grade. Thus, the system is somewhat "inverted" from the "Form" system in use at some schools, and more closely parallels that of West Point and the other FSAs.
Faculty and Staff Officers generally wear military uniforms, and generally wear United States Army officer rank insignia save for those who are a part of the United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard and wear their respective rank insignia. Those with Academy Commissions wear the letters "VF" in place of the "U.S." insignia, and school crests as branch insignia and unit crest. Reserve, National Guard, and Retired Officers and NCO's, serving in their respective ranks, wear the rank and accouterments of their respective service arm.
VFMA&C also employs several British ex-Military personnel, most of whom wear the uniform and rank of their respective British service. The faculty currently includes Royal Navy, Royal Marines Commandos and Royal Marines Band Service personnel especially in the academy's regimental band, and also as staff and tactical officers.
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