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Corps of cadets to host three alumni for Gunfighter Panel


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 19, 2010 – For the thirteenth consecutive semester, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets is bringing back corps graduates who have recently returned from a combat deployment to speak to the regiment.

The Spring 2010 Gunfighters Panel will be held on Thursday, April 1. After bringing back two Army and two Air Force officers in the fall, the corps welcomes back two Marine officers and one Naval officer for spring panel.

Each semester, three or four alumni are welcomed back to campus to sit on the Gunfighter Panel, which is one of the four programs in the Leaders in Action lecture series hosted each term by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Rice Center for Leader Development. The officers will share their combat deployment experiences, their lessons learned and leadership challenges, while also sharing how the corps of cadets experience prepared them for life after college.

The Gunfighter Panel series started in 2003, shortly after the United States entered combat in Iraq. With the war came the increased potential for our cadets to be in combat shortly after graduation, and this series evolved to help prepare them for their future in an uncertain world. The impact of this panel each semester continues to be profound and allows the corps to not only teach future leaders, but to honor those who are already serving the nation in harm’s way.

This year, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets welcome the following panel members:

  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumnus Lt. Cmdr. Dan Bense, U.S. Navy, who earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts and Sciences (today’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences) in 1999;
  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumnus Capt. Trent Fensler, U.S. Marine Corps, who earned a degree in history from the College of Arts and Sciences (today’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences) in 2003; and
  • Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumnus 1st Lt. Andrew Archut, U.S. Marine Corps, who earned a degree in history and a minor in political science from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a minor in leadership studies in 2007.

Bense served as India Company Commander his senior year in the corps. Bense is a Naval Flight Officer and has over 1,500 hours in 5 different naval aircraft, with over 300 in combat. He has over 300 carrier landings in the E-2C Hawkeye. Bense has two combat deployments in support of the war on terrorism. He first deployed from January to June 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom where he coordinated air support for the initial ground campaign. His second combat deployment was from July to December 2007 where he coordinated air support for the Operation Iraqi Freedom surge and Operation Enduring Freedom. Bense and wife Tanya have a seven year old daughter, Sophie, and are expecting their second child.

Fensler served as the Third Battalion Commander during the spring semester his senior year and was also a member of the Highty-Tighties, the Regimental Band. He deployed as part of the Military Transition Team to the Anbar Provine of Iraq in 2007 and served for seven months as the senior American advisor to an Iraqi company. In this role he was one of only four Marines working with 100 Iraqi soldiers in their own Combat Operations Post. Fensler now serves as a Gunnery Instructor at the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership School in Fort Sill, Okla. He is married to the former Meredith Welch of Cary, N.C., and they have three children -- Sara, Will, and Marie -- and are expecting another son in late April.

Archut served as the Regimental Commander during the spring semester of his senior year in the corps, and led the corps of cadets in the immediate aftermath of the April 16, 2007, shootings. He was also recognized by the university as the outstanding undergraduate student leader in 2007. He deployed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Helmand Province AFG, from May to November 2009 during the taking of the province in Operation Kanjari. Archut is married to the former Kate Wright.