I joined the Army more than 25 years ago.
I didn’t really come from a military background—my grandfather served in World War II, but he passed away when I was very young, so I never really got a chance to talk to him about it.
My inspiration came from the WWII movies that played on endless repeat throughout the 1970s and early ’80s. Movies such as “The Longest Day,” “A Bridge Too Far,” “The Guns of Navarone,” “Escape to Victory,” and “Bridge on the River Kwai” all had a central theme that honored teamwork, selflessness, mission accomplishment, grit, and rigor. I was attracted to the idea of being a part of something bigger than myself and making a difference. Some of my relatives say it comes as no surprise that I’m in the Army, because I was a kid who loved to watch war movies, play with Army men, and run around the neighborhood playing Army.
I wasn’t focused during my first year in college, and my grades suffered. I weighed my options and decided to enlist. I had always wanted to be a part of the Army and enlisting provided a way out of the small Pennsylvania steel town where I grew up. After three years in the Army, I applied and was selected for an ROTC scholarship. I returned to college, graduated, and was commissioned as an Infantry officer.
Over the past 22 years, I have met and worked with great people from all over the world.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the director for IU Army ROTC. This is an amazing opportunity and privilege.
Every fall, there are roughly 5,000 cadets who are ranked in their senior year based on a combination of factors that include GPA, physical fitness tests, Leadership Development and Assessment Course evaluations, clubs and other activities, prior to going into the Army. The U.S. Army Cadet Command recently released its rankings for this year’s senior class; all 24 of our senior students received the component (Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve) that they asked for. What is incredibly impressive about our 24 seniors is that eight were selected as distinguished military graduates, an honor awarded to the top 20 percent of all 5,000 cadets. Four of the eight were also recognized as being in the top 10 percent of the 5,000-cadet commissioning class. I’m incredibly proud of our 24 seniors. They will do great things in the Army and in life.
I think one of the most important ideas to impress upon our cadets and students is that academics should be their top priority, and they should remain focused through the ups and downs of life. Having grit—being committed to achieving your long-term goals and the ability to persevere is incredibly important. Digging deep when needed is not necessarily what makes people successful, but it is a necessary characteristic of being successful.
It’s what every team wants of its teammates. And the Army is a team sport.