Upholding standards, keeping the Corps united, and bringing normalcy back after a COVID-19 year of masks and restrictions: These are the top priorities for Cadet Kasey Meredith ’22, regimental commander, and her staff.
Last year, COVID-19 measures—reduced social interaction, online classes, masks, the inability to go off post, and other restrictions—took a toll on the Corps morale. It wasn’t all negative, though. Always creative, the cadets—searching for interaction (and action) within the constraints of barracks—began playing a form of baseball. The equipment is simple: Bats are the brooms used to clean barracks, and the balls are tennis balls—readily available from the bottom of every cadet’s desk chair. Called “stickball,” the new sport took off. It continues this year with intra-Corps tournaments.
Meredith is interested in implementing other creative ways to engage the Corps and keep morale high. In fall 2021, Corps leadership instituted some completely new things, including an expanded 9/11 tribute. A few 1st Class cadets did a two-day, 46-mile march honoring lives lost on 9/11. The Rat Mass and the marchers joined cadets in barracks for a memorial stair climb, and rats received their shoulder boards after participating. Other changes include different formation times and morning PT.
The main point, though, Meredith said, are the standards, rules, and regulations “that we want to see the Corps uphold.” Beginning with morning BRC uniform inspections and encompassing the rest of the day, her focus is keeping the standard.
VMI’s environment is uniquely suited to preserving standards, and it is one of Meredith’s favorite parts of the Institute. The best thing about VMI, and other similar institutions, is the organizational structure, she said. “It’s really a leadership laboratory. You have the opportunity to fail and to succeed and to learn from those failures and successes.”
When she matriculated, Meredith didn’t come to VMI intent on breaking any barriers or with any preconceived personal limitations. She did come with a goal—military service—accompanied by determination and a second-to-none work ethic. When she heard the regimental commander’s speech on her Matriculation Day, she thought to herself, “Maybe in four years, that could be me. I could be in that position if I work hard enough.”
Meredith wanted to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school. Her mother, a Navy veteran, asked Meredith to delay her service for a few years and obtain a college degree. She began looking at military academies and colleges with an eye toward her future service. Meredith also looked at “normal” colleges and soon concluded that VMI was right for her. “I wanted to go to a place where I could learn to feel uncomfortable and be successful in an uncomfortable position.”
During the Rat Line, she never thought about leaving VMI. She would go to sleep pondering the day’s successes, mentally listing what she had improved from the previous day—and think about what she could do better going forward. She began her 3rd Class year as a private, without rank. Soon, she learned a color corporal position was open. Before the position opened, Meredith had not considered applying for rank but knew seeking something different was part of why she chose the Institute.
“What I came to do at VMI was to learn leadership,” she said. “I absolutely jumped on the opportunity to have rank and to have that leadership opportunity.”
“When you learn to juggle all of those things together, you become more successful. VMI cadets are successful because they learn how to juggle that from day one.”Cadet Kasey Meredith '22, regimental commander
The international studies major likes to “branch out and do different things.” Aside from voluntarily attending Marine Corps Officer Candidate School twice, she’s on a two-year Marine Corps ROTC scholarship, was part of a 20-mile Norwegian foot march hosted at VMI, was a sergeant major her 2nd Class year, and has a part-time job in the Cocke Hall weight room this year. Before applying for the sergeant major rank, she worked hard academically. Her hard work paid off—she raised her GPA, earned the position, and “learned a lot” as a sergeant major. She also made a tough decision—she could have graduated in December 2021—but opted to stay at VMI a little longer. If she didn’t take advantage of what the Institute offered her, she knew she’d regret it in a few years.
Along with extending her stay in barracks, Meredith decided to apply for the regimental commander position, having “no idea” if she’d get the job. “But it was definitely something I wanted to shoot for,” she said.
When rank was announced last spring in Memorial Hall, she was nervous. Several names were called, but she didn’t hear hers. As the announcements continued, she realized she’d either be the regimental commander—“or get nothing at all.”
When she heard her name, “it was easily the best experience I’ve had at VMI,” she said. “Everything I put forth through my years kind of all came together.”
She was—and is—ready to implement new ideas and “do so much for the Corps … to just pour it all together and do the best I [can] do in a job.”
Being the regimental commander requires a lot of time, and Meredith tries to keep lines of communications open and fluid in many different areas. Ultimate responsibility for the military aspects of the Corps is hers, but she has help on all sides. From the Rat Line forward, she’s built relationships.
“You always have your brother rats to rely on,” she said. “And that’s something you won’t find anywhere else.”
She’s also communicated with her peers at other senior military colleges and become good friends with Cadet Kathryn Christmas, regimental commander at The Citadel.
Though no one would ever call the job easy, the first captain always arrives to 1st Class year well-prepared. From the first day, VMI provides structure—militarily, academically, and in character building. “When you learn to juggle all of those things together, you become more successful,” Meredith said. “VMI cadets are successful because they learn how to juggle that from day one.”
After rank announcements, many people offered Meredith congratulations. Alumnae, in particular, contacted her and spoke with her at a reception following the May 2021 change of command ceremony. Some told her they never thought they’d see a female regimental commander.
Those alumnae “are the reason I’m even able to be here today,” Meredith said. Looking forward, she holds herself to a high standard for the female cadets who will follow in her footsteps. “I want females who are coming to VMI feeling more confident; that they can do the things I’m doing.”
Being the Institute’s first female regimental commander adds to her load—but it is just one more step in her journey.
“It’s making me a better person for whenever I commission,” she said. “So, I welcome the pressure.”
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