By Brandon OConnorJuly 24, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The military is a family tradition for Class of 2020 Cadet Eden-Elizabeth Phillips. But even in a family defined by service to country she found a way to blaze her own path.
Her grandfather, dad and brother all attended the Virginia Military Institute. She wanted no part of that life at first, but after seeing the impact just a year at VMI had on her brother, Phillips began to rethink her objections and decided to follow a similar path by attending the U.S. Military Academy.
"Seeing him come back just more mature and proud to be a part of something bigger than himself, I wanted something like that as well," Phillips said.
With three years of her West Point journey completed, Phillips has not just fully embraced, but thrived in an environment she originally had no plans to enter. As she prepares for her final year at the academy, Phillips has taken on her biggest challenge yet and is serving as the regimental commander for Cadet Field Training, the six-week long summer training program for the Class of 2022.
The cadet leadership for the academic year, including First Captain, is chosen from the rising "Firsties" (Seniors) serving as leaders throughout the various aspects of Cadet Summer Training. Phillips decided to pursue a top leadership role for her final year after seeing what she could accomplish while serving as First Sergeant during the first semester of her Cow (Junior) year.
"A lot of times, we look up to the people who are leading us and upholding standards, and we just think that they're just kind of out to get people," Phillips said. "But the reality was as First Sergeant, I recognized I could hold everyone to the right standard, but also treat them like human beings and challenge them to be better than themselves in the past."
CFT lasts for six weeks during the summer, but the planning started months beforehand with the initial meetings being held in February. The top five leaders for CFT held multiple meetings a week through the end of the academic year as they prepared to take charge of the Class of 2022 and lead their summer training program.
"To be successful, it takes a strong team of cadet leaders who work well together," Phillips said. "I have been extremely blessed to work with Daine Van de Wall, our Sergeant Major. He and I have become great friends who are always looking out for one another and for the betterment of the regiment."
As their plan for the summer came into focus, Phillips and her regimental staff had a simple goal while leading CFT-make the Class of 2022 the best possible class it can be.
"The Class of 2022 is going to be the best class because we trained them," Phillips said. "The mindset that we're trying to give to our leaders is that you take ownership of this class and make them better than we've ever seen before. So, I think that definitely motivates people to continue and then over this last week we're just focusing on finishing all the way through, and just finishing strong."
The impact they have had on the Class of 2022 will not be apparent until the cadets are given the chance to be leaders for the first time this academic year, Phillips said, but after leading training for six weeks she is confident they have been well trained and given the tools to be successful.
What is already clear, she said, is the impact having the leadership role throughout the summer has had on her. As the CFT commander, she is not only leading the cadets in the Class of 2022, she is also leading her classmates who make up the regimental staff and peers who are serving as the cadre throughout training.
"I didn't know what it meant to be a part of a regimental staff, or to really see what the people on the top are dealing with when having to think at seven different companies at a time," Phillips said. "I think it's just giving me that new perspective, and really challenged me in ways that I never expected."