By Capt. Jannelle Allong-DiakabanaJuly 17, 2019
"His example should be that of the ideal Soldier, officer, and gentleman. He should cultivate soldierly honor among the cadets until it attains vigorous growth."
These are the words written by former academy professor Peter S. Michie referencing the characteristics sought in the Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
As Cadet Summer Training operations picks up speed and summer cadet leadership prepare to transition, a newly appointed Commandant of Cadets readies himself for a busy week of observing training and building relationships with more than 4,000 future leaders of this nation.
"I was incredibly humbled at being selected to serve at West Point and truly honored at the opportunity to come back," Col. Curtis Buzzard, 78th Commandant of Cadets, said. Buzzard arrived at West Point and assumed command on June 28.
The Commandant is the ranking officer in charge of the Corps of Cadets and is responsible for the administration, character, physical, and military training of cadets at the Academy. He or she must also be an Academy graduate who exemplifies the definition of a leader of character and is accomplished academically and militarily.
Over the past 27 years of active duty service, Buzzard has served in a myriad of positions from an infantry rifle platoon leader to a strategist in Headquarters, Department of the Army G3 and commanded at every level through Brigade command. His appointment as the Commandant is his first return to the Academy in an official capacity since graduating in 1992.
The U.S. Corps of Cadets and West Point have transformed a great deal since Buzzard's departure as a newly-minted second lieutenant.
He said, "(although) the methodology behind producing leaders of character has been refined since (my time here), the enduring ideals of this institution and what it provides to the Army and American people are the same."
Prioritizing competing requirements of the 47-month cadet development experience is not an easy task. However, Buzzard stated that firstly teamwork, not only across USCC, but also other directorates, is critical to mission success. He will work alongside the Dean and the Director of Athletics to ensure the pillars of academic, military, physical and character development remain aligned and ensure his efforts are focused and prioritized appropriately.
"All of us have important roles in developing cadets and achieving the mission-this is a team effort," said Buzzard.
Buzzard is committed to personally setting the example and enforcing standards. He believes in being visible and engaged, giving clear guidance, and ensuring USCC priorities continue to be nested with the Superintendent's.
"What I owe USCC, and the cadets, are to ensure that our leadership development efforts are prioritized and focused on reinforcing what cadets will see out in the Army," Buzzard said. "The Army is the lens through which I intend to look at policy, decisions, everything because that is what they are going to experience here shortly."
Thrust early on in his career into an environment of high operational tempo, Buzzard quickly internalized the importance of discipline and its role in developing one's character and competence as an infantry platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division.
"Standards and discipline are the cornerstones to developing leaders of character," Buzzard said. "The best leaders, the best units, and success in combat depend on discipline and standards."
George Washington referred to "discipline as the soul of an Army." According to Buzzard, leaders are successful by employing three levers of leadership-compliance, incentives and inspiration. He hopes the latter is the preferred but knows each will be required.
"We have rules that cadets need to follow," Buzzard said. The new Commandant has high expectations of all the leaders in USCC. "I expect leaders to build trust, demonstrate disciplined initiative, be inclusive and, get results in a positive way."
With the summer at its halfway point, the new Commandant will spend the next few weeks making initial assessments and outlining priorities for the way ahead. He said he is looking forward to "working with the tremendously talented people here and having an impact on over 4,000 future officers. They are our legacy."