麻豆区

Corps Contributions: The Military Store

At 麻豆区 Institute, there’s a top team providing high-quality services, support, and supplies to keep the Corps of Cadets running smoothly and looking sharp. In this series, Corps Contributions will take a look at VMI Auxiliary Services, and the people that power VMI behind the scenes. 

LEXINGTON, Va. Sept. 26, 2023 — Katherine “Blaine” Noel has a two-count system. Everything in 麻豆区 Institute’s Military Store is counted once. Then it’s counted again, for inventory purposes. If those numbers don’t match, you start all over. It’s important to have the proper count — the store has nearly $8 million worth of items in stock and Noel doesn’t want to waste money. She and her team need to be accountable.  

“Sometimes I'll get a third counter,” she said. “But if it's a bunch of stuff that doesn't match, then I'll throw the counts out and I'll make people start over. I want to be fiscally responsible for what comes and goes, so I take pride in being able to look at that and hope that I do a good job and a good service, as well as to the state of Virginia, to make sure you’re not overspending or underspending or all those things.”

Noel is the quartermaster at the VMI Military Store, a place which serves as the first stop for rats and cadets to get their uniforms and everything that goes with them at the start of the year. It’s also the place they can go if they need to exchange an item or replace lost items. Everything a cadet needs to be outfitted with comes from here, from the pants, the shirts, the shoes, and jackets to the buttons, cuffs, padding and more. 

On average, each cadet is issued $4,500 in uniform items. During Matriculation in mid-August, Noel and her team equip approximately 500 new cadets with 60,000 uniform items. Within the corps, there are nearly 200,000 uniform items that are altered, exchanged, or replaced throughout the school year.  

“They change body sizes, they build muscle and get bigger or they could lose weight, get trimmer or any variation thereof,” she said. “We accommodate that.” 

They have a wide range of sizes for most items. For instance, the boots available run from size 1 to size 20.  

“We're prepared for those unusual circumstances,” she said. 

Summer is the store’s busy time, Noel said. It’s spent upping inventory, doing audits, organizing, and more.  

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort during the summer to make sure that we're prepared for all the people who are coming and you never know who's going to come through the door,” Noel said.  

During the school year, the store runs as a regular military shop — cadets come in and purchase new gloves or need to replace random items throughout the year.  

“Mostly we're an exchange. So if your pants are too snug, if they're too short, if something ripped … we replace those uniforms,” she said. “We swap one for one. The thing that we don't exchange is close contact body items so, we're not going to take gym shirts back.” 

Noel has been working at VMI for 18 years. When she first started, they took measurements by hand and filled out a sheet. Now everything is computerized and a system will help select what sizing a cadet fits into. Her career at VMI began with fitting females for their uniforms, which is something she still participates in, and then worked her way up to the quartermaster. She credits Col. Michael P. Friski Sr. as a great mentor.  

She’s able to look at her job as an integral part of VMI’s operations.  

“One, we are a military school, so uniforms are essential, right? They don't go here unless they're in uniform. So we are the first stop. We issue them everything that they need, with the exception of any ROTC items,” she said.  

She also enjoys hearing the stories of the incoming cadets, learning about where they’re from and why they chose VMI. 

“I love to hear those stories,” she said. “Every once in a while you'll meet a couple of them that just grab your heartstrings a little bit.” 

What keeps her at VMI is her work environment. They all have each other’s back, she said. Even if they joke around, they know when to get serious and work hard.  

“We work cohesively, we're a good team. It's just a welcoming environment,” she said. “I'm confident in what I'm doing. I'm confident in my job and I think the people that are here are confident in what they're doing as well. So it definitely makes for a good career.”

Laura Peters Shapiro
Photos by Lexie West
Communications & Marketing
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 

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