You may not know it, but there is a very real military presence on the Middlebury campus. Maybe you’ve seen someone wading through the crowds of flannel and Toms in camouflage and combat boots. Maybe you’ve wondered what the U.S. Army was doing occupying ADK on a Wednesday afternoon. Maybe you’ve done a double-take when you realized there was a soldier waiting in line behind you at the Grille. Wonder no longer, because I’m taking this opportunity to reveal the nature of this military presence: it’s me. I am the one and only member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps from Middlebury, and I’m here to put a name to the face. Or the uniform: I’m Callie to you Midd kids, Cadet Bullion to UVM’s Green Mountain Battalion, and soon to be Lieutenant Bullion to the soldiers I will lead as an officer in the U.S. Army. Over the past four years, I have balanced the life of a student and a cadet. With very little awareness and very little support for Middlebury students who choose this path, it’s a long and challenging journey to embark upon, involving hundreds of dollars in gas spent driving back and forth to Burlington every week, schedules rearranged to accommodate ROTC classes, and countless weekend and summer plans broken to make space for training. You get used to the odd looks, the questions, the inability to put into civilian words what this life is like. Having a foot in these two worlds has never been easy. But it has always been worth it.
To provide a little perspective, let me describe what a typical weekend field training exercise looks like: I wake up at 0400 on Friday morning, roll out of bed, put on my uniform, lace up my boots. I take the hour long drive to 601 Main, ROTC headquarters at UVM, downing an energy drink and a power bar on my way to try to kickstart the weekend. A quick bus ride dozing off against a rucksack packed with three days worth of gear and we arrive at our destination: Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Jericho, Vermont. Then it’s non-stop training: first aid, learning how to evacuate casualties in a Blackhawk helicopter, day and night land navigation (Ever been given a map, a compass, some grid coordinates, and a flashlight you’re not supposed to use and been told to go out into the woods alone on a moonless, rainy night to find those coordinates? It’s an experience), qualifying on the firing range with an M-16 rifle, a six mile march carrying 35 lbs., and twelve hours of simulated situations learning how to conduct ambushes, attacks and reconnaissance missions. By the third day I am exhausted, running on less than ten total hours of sleep the entire weekend, and looking forward to a hot shower, a good meal and sleep. But first there’s another hour drive south on Route 7 and a pile of homework waiting for me. But despite it all, I fall into bed that night smiling because I have taken another step toward the end state, a dream four years in the making: a gold bar on my chest.
And in just a few weeks, that dream will come true. The day before I receive my diploma, I will raise my right hand, and take an oath that few Middlebury students have taken: “I, Caroline Louise Bullion, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of second lieutenant do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.” With that oath I shoulder a huge responsibility. It’s the responsibility for the soldiers under my command, men and women who heard the call just like I did. It’s the responsibility to always try to do what’s right even when it’s difficult. It’s the responsibility to lead. And this responsibility is a lot heavier than that 35 lb. rucksack. But I look forward to it all the same. I hope this legacy will not end with me, that other Midd kids will continue this quiet but proud tradition of service to a world outside the proverbial “Middlebury Bubble.” Because on that commencement weekend I will be both a Middlebury Panther and a Green Mountain Battalion Catamount, proud to call both my family, unable to have gotten to this point without their love, support and encouragement. Go Midd, Catamounts Lead the Way!
CALLIE BULLION ‘14.5 is from Millis, Mass. Artwork by TAMIR WILLIAMS.