Remembering 'Father of Cadet Command'
September 4, 2013
A gallant old warrior named Bob Wagner entered into eternal rest Aug. 14, 2013. As one who knew him even prior to his tenure as the initial commanding general of Cadet Command, I have been asked to provide my thoughts on his passing.
In candor, capturing the quintessence of his professional life and career is no simple task -- for he was a complex man.
I initially met him nearly 30 years ago while I was still a captain serving at Fort Bragg, N.C. His reputation had preceded him, and I prepared for that initial encounter with trepidation.
He was reputed to be a hard-boiled cavalryman and "Dueler 6" -- his radio call sign -- evoked visions of an extremely demanding commander. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed when we met.
Later, when life's journey took me to Fort Monroe, Va., as a civilian employee of Cadet Command, I learned there was much more to The Dueler than his public persona. In the ensuing decades, I got to know him to an extent I would have found unimaginable during our initial meeting at Fort Bragg.
We spent many hours together -- sometimes in heated discussion -- subsequent to his retirement. Those encounters yielded four insights I would like to share with those never privileged to know him.
• Maj. Gen. Bob Wagner was a Man of Courage. His accomplishments in 24 months of close combat earned him the right to display the Silver Star, a Combat Infantryman Badge and other awards for valor on his uniform. But his bravery was not limited to the battlefield. The Dueler possessed great moral courage, too. Many times, I saw him go head-to-head with more senior leaders when championing an important cause. And he courageously confronted the ill-health plaguing his final years and the loss of his beloved wife, Charlotte.
• The Dueler was a Man of Vision. In the wake of the Vietnam War, he saw the need to reinvent the Army ROTC program -- and he did so. His standardization of training and the leader development/assessment process he instituted became the foundation for this command.
• Bob Wagner was a Man of Deep Loyalties. He was fiercely loyal to his close circle of friends and, above all, to his beloved family. His love of Cadet Command -- the organization he brought into being in 1986 -- knew no boundaries.
• He was a Man of Boundless Energy. At a juncture when most would relegate themselves to quiet pursuits at home, he was a fiercely competitive yachtsman and an avid docent at two museums. He also found time to read to youngsters, write a novel and keep a very watchful eye on developments related to Cadet Command.
His earthly remains will lie in perpetuity at Arlington National Cemetery, marked by sepulchral stone. But his legacy is the vibrant command he founded and his beloved family. To them, I express my heartfelt sympathy.
With sadness I bid farewell to The Dueler. May we meet again on Fiddlers' Green.
Paul Kotakis is currently the deputy G-7 for U.S. Army Cadet Command.