ROTC cadets to lead in increasingly complex world

By Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWSOctober 22, 2014

ROTC chief discusses recruiting
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 21, 2014) -- The Army is training the officers of tomorrow to face the challenges of an increasingly complex world, the commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command said.

The cadets in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, will be the leaders in those conflicts of the future, said Brig. Gen. Peggy C. Combs, in an interview last week at the Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

The world today is "complex and dangerous," and future situations are expected to be even more challenging, she said.

No one knows where the next conflict will be, she said, but the Army does predict a fight that will "be taken to the enemy with Soldiers in boots."

Those Soldiers will need great leaders who are decisive, and can outthink the enemy and be "two moves ahead to continually exploit the initiative," Combs said. Those leaders are the ROTC members of today, she said.


The Army wants cadets who are strong leaders or have the potential to be leaders, Combs said.

They need to be well-rounded individuals with a strong commitment to academics and physical fitness. They are team players who excel at problem-solving and decision-making.

"We're looking for folks who want to serve and want to be something bigger than themselves," she said.

The cadets have to be quick thinkers who can apply their intellect in a variety of ways when they are officers, including in split-second, life or death situations.

"When you graduate college, you are going to be put in a position of responsibility that is responsible for the lives of those you lead," she said, as well as managing millions of dollars in supply and equipment.

"It is an incredible responsibility," she said.

The ROTC curriculum is also changing to reflect the complexities of the world and train the cadets to think in a way that addresses these challenges. The coursework also highlights the Army profession and the gravity of the responsibility that the cadets will face as officers, she said.

"Our curriculum is changing very much to use tactics as a venue to drive thinking and problem solving," she said.

"We're looking at how do we set the initial calibration of a leader's weapon system," she said. "And to me, the leader's weapon system is his or her brain."

The command is also looking at how it delivers "the product of Army ROTC." Combs said she anticipates "personnel challenges" as the commands seeks to be more efficient.

"We've been doing it in about the same way for about a hundred years now, so it's about time to step back and really look at how are we doing business," she noted.


The ROTC program is so much more than a scholarship program or a means to develop leaders who serve just in the Army, Combs said.

"You're going to be a leader for life," she said.

The leadership skills will benefit the person whether the individual serves one tour or makes a career in the active Army, or is a citizen-Soldier in the National Guard or Army Reserve.

"What some people often don't think about when they think about ROTC is that tri-component piece, that it is a total force commissioning source and this notion of developing leaders across the nation, for the nation," she said.

Being an Army officer is "all about the profession and it's all about our constitutional duties," she said.

The program does face challenges, she said, including getting its message out and connecting the young people at a personal level.

While the Army ROTC program commissions almost three-quarters of all Army officers, the best part, according to Combs, is not that high figure, but rather the great "diversity of thought" that comes from these officers who are developed in 1,000 college campuses nationwide.

The cadets are sometimes the only representation of the Army for hundreds of miles, so they are wonderful ambassadors for the force, she said.


Combs said she has the "best job in the Army" and the "best job in America" because she gets to "see the future" through the ROTC cadets. The future is very bright, she said.

She said she has the same advice for all recruits:

• "You make your success based on your attitude."

• "You can control how you react, and how you anticipate situations, you can control your reaction to anything that might not go your way."

• "Your greatness comes inside you, and as long as you are doing your very best each and every day, and you can go to bed at night saying 'I did my best today, and I'm going to strive to do that,' then you'll be fine."

• "Don't let anyone steal your greatness."

The cadets have the greatest reasons to be proud, as they are part of an institution that is "integral to the fabric of this nation," she said.

"You are joining an organization that won the freedom of America and has preserved it for 238 years," she said.

"We truly do stand on shoulders of giants," she said. "I just think there is no better way to live."

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