By Sarah Windmueller
Over 200 of the nation’s top Army ROTC and United States Military Academy – West Point Cadets assembled for the George C. Marshall Leadership and Awards Seminar held February 14-15 at Ft. Knox, Ky.
“It’s a chance to recognize the best of the best Cadets,” said Maj. Gen. Antonio Munera, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cadet Command. “These are the high performing Cadets in their program [and from West Point]. It’s not only just the normal statistics of GPAs and OMLs (Order of Merit Lists), but it’s the Cadets who their PMS’s assess have the best leadership potential.”
The seminar began in 1976 as a tribute to Gen. George C. Marshall who is considered one of America’s distinguished Citizen-Soldiers. An Army ROTC alumnus of Virginia Military Institute, Marshall devoted his efforts to the cause of international peace, security, and economic development after World War II ended. He also played a significant role in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, helping to achieve a balance of power in Europe during the Cold War.
The two-day event offers unique educational activities focusing on leadership and national issues, while giving the Cadets opportunities to interact with Army Senior Leaders, Defense experts, Cadre, and their peers in both large and small group discussions.
Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, was one of four Senior Leaders who spoke with Cadets.
“I want to congratulate you on your selection to be in the category of a Marshall award winner,” Gen. Brito said. “You’re part of a very small percentage across all the Cadets – to include West Point– and if you ask me, that speaks to your potential in the years ahead.”
Brito offered up advice and encouragement for the soon to be Second Lieutenants as they prepare to graduate and commission in the next few months.
“Take the time to take care of your Soldiers, to know your Soldiers, to know their personalities, to know what’s going on in their lives,” Brito said. “When you do that, you’ll work hard to provide the best PT in the morning, you’ll work hard to understand your doctrine, you’ll work hard to master your craft at your respected point in life [and] point in your career right now.”
“Wake up every day to be the best leader for those soldiers that you’re serving.”
Cadets inquired Senior Leaders about topics ranging from Ukraine, modern warfare, and the future of the Army.
Cadet Colin Boyd, Boston University, was thrilled to be learning from “the highest echelon possible.”
“I think the big draw of the conference is that we get to hear from people that we would never get to hear from otherwise,” he said. “The V Corps commander [Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski] gave a speech and that was someone I was researching for a project in my military science class this past week and here he is on stage talking to everyone.”
Cadet Jayden Foose, a Green to Gold Cadet from Texas A&M University—Kingsville, enjoyed the exposure to Senior Leaders that he and his peers don’t typically get within their programs.
“I think one of the great things that I have already picked up on is the quote from General Brito about mastering your craft and taking care of your soldiers,” he said. “That was one of the best things I’ve heard so far…I hope a lot of people get that as a huge takeaway – mastering your craft and always trying to be better than the day before.”
This was also a year of firsts for the seminar in that this is the first time the event has been held at Ft. Knox, Ky.
Both Army ROTC and United States Military Academy Cadets appreciated the opportunity to share group discussions with peers from across the country on topics like building readiness within units and what the Army will look like in the future.
“It’s really good for the diversity and perspective,” said Cadet Caleb Jeffries, United States Military Academy.
“[Army ROTC Cadets] go through stuff that’s different than us, and that’s valuable because they see things in ways that we might not and, to counter that, we can see things differently from them, but they’re both constructive toward each other and how we’re going to operate later in life.”
In the end, Cadets will depart with thoughtful awareness and a strong perception of their leadership expectations as Second Lieutenants in the Army.
“At the end of the day, we see that regardless of what your path was to becoming an officer, they’re all the same,” Gen Munera said.
“It really is a chance to re-emphasize the fundamentals of leadership,” Munera said. “Our number one priority is to produce Cadets that know how to take care of people at the small unit level and build cohesive teams.”