The Freshman Uniform

Physical training at dawn and a full roster of engineering classes define life at Tufts for ROTC undergraduate Vadim Reytblat

It’s easy to spot Vadim Reytblat, E15, on campus. He’s one of just four Tufts students who wear a Navy uniform to class—and the only freshman enrolled in Naval ROTC.

Joining ROTC was an easy choice, he says. “I’ve always had a respect for the military,” says Reytblat, who is from Los Angeles. “Just by being in the military I know there’s a certain standard that I know a person will live up to. That’s a standard I personally want to meet.”

He had other motivations, too. His grandparents served in the Soviet Navy as engineers in Ukraine, where Reytblat was born. (He and his parents moved to the U.S. when he was two months old.) “He became so fascinated by the stories about my father that he just fell in love with the military and wanted to follow,” says his mother, Maya Greyz.

Reytblat grew up committed to a life of service. He’s always been there for his mother, who is deaf. His parents divorced when he was in fourth grade, and Greyz has raised Reytblat on her own. The son tells the story of when he was just 10 and had to call 911 for his mother. He interpreted in Russian, English and sign language for his grandparents, his mother and her doctor—a challenge most would find extraordinary, but for him, was typical.

“I’ve already had this sense of discipline and respect and organization instilled in me,” Reyblat says. “This is just formally making that transition into the adult world. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than through ROTC.”

That discipline will be put to the test as he juggles a schedule that includes taking naval science courses at the MIT Naval ROTC unit, physical training at dawn once a week also at MIT, a full course load in the School of Engineering—and, of course, keeping in touch with his family in L.A.

“My friends definitely know me as the ‘military guy’ of the group,” Reytblat says. “But it’s nice to have a group of civilians who help me relax, help me get away from the military lifestyle, help me have fun and socialize and just be a normal college student,” he says.

Kelvin Ma can be reached at

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