LEXINGTON, Va. – A summer off from school for a majority of college students across the country might involve sleeping in until noon, going to the beach with friends, working on their short game, a summer job and perhaps a road trip or two.
But two lacrosse players from the Virginia Military Institute decided to buck the trend and try something different.
Senior captain Rory Dillon and junior Tyler Prasnicki, both of whom will commission in the United States Army after graduation, each spent a month at a military training program. Dillon, who serves on the Rat Disciplinary Committee, completed LDAC (Leader Development and Assessment Course), while Prasnicki completed the three-week Airborne School.
Dillon, who came to VMI from Williamsburg, Va., spent June 25-July 23 at Fort Lewis in Washington, with training in garrison and field exercises, some of which included marksmanship, platoon operations, squad functions and navigation.
Like many VMI cadets who go through LDAC, Dillon performed exceptionally well, graduating with an E (Exceeds Standards), the highest mark at the 29-day training event, a mark roughly eight percent of those who attend LDAC earn. The two-time captain on the lacrosse team finished fourth in his 45-man platoon and in the top 10 percent of his entire regiment. While at Fort Lewis, Dillon also qualified as an expert marksman with an M16 rifle.
One of Dillon’s favorite segments at LDAC was the platoon operations simulated mission. Each platoon received a mission and moved throughout the parameters of the mission to completion. The defenseman also met RECONDO (RECONnaissance and commanDO) requirements, a highly specialized training for reconnaissance teams.
Dillon received an additional credit for finishing in the top five of his platoon and meeting RECONDO requirements. To meet RECONDO requirements, he had to achieve rigorous standards, such as no medical waivers during training, score 270 or higher on the Army Physical Fitness Test while scoring a minimum of 90 points per event with no retest, score 80 percent on written and practical Land Navigation proficiency tests with no retest, and meet height/weight or body fat standards. Dillon’s scores and results make him highly competitive for his branch of choice, the infantry.
On the opposite side of the country, Prasnicki completed the three-week Airborne School at Fort Benning in Georgia, operated by the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Infantry, United States Army Infantry School. The course is designed to teach the basics of being a paratrooper. Broken down into three weeks, his first two weeks were ground based and built around learning how to how to jump from an airplane, controlling the parachute in the air and landing safely.
At the start of Airborne School, Prasnicki, a platoon sergeant in VMI’s Corps of Cadets, was one of 450 people to begin the School and was one of 390 to graduate. During the three weeks, attendees are sent home for multiple reasons, chiefly physical fitness and the inability to follow instructions and directions to remain safe.
In the third week, Prasnicki, who hails from Lexington and attended nearby Rockbridge County High School, completed five jumps from 1,250 feet above ground.
“I was really nervous at first, even though I tried not to be,” said Prasnicki of the challenge. “I was fine until the jumpmaster said ‘Stand up’ when we were on the plane for the first time and my stomach dropped. Once I was in the air and on the ground, the adrenaline rush got rid of the nerves and it was the coolest thing I have ever done.
After getting his wings, Prasnicki is qualified as Airborne. In the future, the defenseman will look towards Ranger School, which is also held at Fort Benning. Eventually, Prasnicki hopes to be selected for the 75th Ranger Regiment Assessment Course.
Dillon summed up his experience “LDAC was a great opportunity to work with ROTC cadets from all over the United States. No two cadets in my platoon were from the same school, I even had a cadet from Puerto Rico in my platoon. It was great to collaborate with the different cadets and learn different approaches to problems and leadership.”