Military College Has Value For Life
Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt
Sometime in my first or second year at the College I remember LCol Tony O’Keeffee, then Director of Cadets, addressing the morning parade. One statement from his address in particular stands out. He said something to the effect of, “Astronauts have marched off this parade square and so have homeless people.” His point was that as a Cadet you choose not only what your experience is at the College but ultimately what you make of yourself in life. As I’ve found since leaving the military in 2014, however, that choice involves doing the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. And, perhaps not unsurprisingly, lessons learned at the College have value even then.
In the summer of 2016, as I was living in South Carolina, it became apparent that having a career working with children (something I have always enjoyed) wasn’t going to be enough to pay the bills. I spent six months polishing my resume in an effort to move up the corporate ladder but with the job market there being what it was that didn’t happen. What I found instead was a part-time second job in the dairy department of a major grocery store chain. To my surprise, I excelled at it. Within six months I had become the full-time assistant manager of the department.
Ex-Cadets may find for themselves more high-profile positions than this following their time in the military, but I was able to succeed in this one precisely because of the lessons I learned at the College. Perhaps the greatest lesson was that the fundamentals of leadership do not change even if the surroundings do. Leadership is the art of influencing people to do things they would rather not do and that was as true of the dairy department as it was of the College. Working in the dairy cooler, where the temperature was kept near freezing, was cold, difficult, and often damp work. No one on the team came in every day ready to give 110%. By setting the example based on what I had learned at the College I was able to help them get past that. As a team we could then get the job done.
As a Cadet in the military college system you are exposed to a number of different leadership styles from many different leaders. You learn by watching the other Cadets, the NCO’s, and the Officers around you. In doing so, you get to see methods that are more effective and, occasionally, methods that are less so. In the dairy industry I was able to draw on those experiences to get the most out of the team I was responsible for.
Not everyone who leaves the College will go on to be an astronaut but that does nothing to lesson the value of the time Cadets spend there. If I could say one thing to the current Cadets, especially to those coming in as First Years in the fall, it would be to keep your eyes open. You will learn far more during your time here than you realize and it will be of far greater value to you than you may realize right now.