Fordham University/University of Southern California
Army ROTC, EMT, Social Worker
Military Social Work
24 April 2011
“The Tommy’s Run is an event that occurs every Spring semester for the USC Army ROTC program. Basically, the cadets from ROTC wake up really early one morning near the end of the spring semester, around 0430, and prepare to go on a run. The run starts at Cromwell field and goes all the way to Tommy’s, a chili burger joint in LA. We run in formation down the street, and cadets call cadences to pass the time and keep us in step. Tommy’s is something like 3 and a half miles away, it takes a little under an hour. We run really slowly so everybody can keep up. Those cadets who are injured travel in a van that follows us to make sure nobody gets hurt. Once at Tommy’s, each cadet is given a chilidog and a chiliburger to eat. Most people can’t finish, but are encouraged to eat as much as they can. After eating, we all start the 3 and a half mile run back. Its incredibly painful, and most cadets develop some sort of cramp. It’s pretty common to puke during the run. I was one of the cadets who puked during the run, I felt terrible for the rest of the day.”
When asked, HS states that the purpose of the Tommy’s Run is part mental test and part endurance test. It’s supposed to be painful, and extremely uncomfortable. She explains because it comes near the end of the year it is partially a celebration of finishing another year of class and ROTC. She also believed that the purpose of the event was to share another common experience that is different from the usual training that they conduct. She mentioned that after she completed the run she felt accomplished, because she didn’t quit even though she felt so sick. Besides being rewarding, HS commented that the Tommy’s Run was pretty fun. “I mean the run back totally sucked. But the start of it was kinda cool. People were driving by and honking their horns, and yelling encouraging stuff out their windows. Its something that I never want to do again, yet at the same time wouldnt mind doing again.
As a member of ROTC as well, I find that HS beliefs about the significance of the event are for the most part correct. The run is supposed to be difficult, and stated plainly “really suck.” Its a test, to see how committed individuals are to the tradition of the run. Cadets who purposefully dont eat a lot, or throw away the food and claim they ate the food are looked down on. The event is important to ROTC because it is an event that is unique just to us as a group on campus, no one else does this. In ROTC, there is a strict no hazing policy. So for new cadets, the Tommy’s Run is the only thing that could be considered hazing. However, unlike other hazing rituals, all cadets take part. Unlike HS, who joined ROTC this year and had her first fountain run, I joined ROTC in my Sophomore year and have gone on three. As a Senior cadet, the event holds a bit more significance. Senior cadets often “talk up” the event in order to scare cadets who have never done it before. It also represents the last time we are going to do this, and it serves as a measure of the new cadets abilities. One cadet ate two burgers and a chilidog and didn’t puke, a difficult enough feat without having to run three miles after. This event happened two years ago, and that story is still told to new cadets.