By Brandon OConnorOctober 3, 2019
Col. Kyle Marsh, USMA Class of 1992, returned to the U.S. Military Academy this summer as the Brigade Tactical Officer. Along with Commandant of Cadets Col. Curtis Buzzard, Marsh is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Corps of Cadets including standards, discipline and military training.
Marsh brings with him 27 years of Army experience including five deployments, several overseas assignments and bases throughout the country.
After moving more than 12 times in his career, Marsh jumped at the opportunity to return to West Point for the same reason he chose to attend in the first place-he loves the academy.
Starting with his experience as a cadet while training in Germany, the importance of habits, standards and discipline have become central to his understanding of what it takes to be successful as an Army officer.
PV: Why did you decide to return to West Point to serve as the BTO?
KM: "Ever since I left I always thought an assignment here would be a lot of fun. I think it's giving back to the cadets and I had a great experience as a cadet.
"After so many years of being away and being a consumer of what this institution provides in the lieutenants who graduate from here, what a humble opportunity to give back and work to develop and mold our Army's future leaders.
"I want to ensure we give our Army the very best lieutenant possible."
PV: How has your time as a cadet at West Point impacted your career in the Army and how do you hope to instill those lessons in current cadets?
KM: "I think standards and discipline was a key aspect I learned. I am very inspired with the quality of our cadets. They are an impressive group of young men and women.
The commandant and I talk a lot about habits. We step back and say, 'Do our graduates have good habits?' Habits of eating right. Habits of sleeping right. Habits of working out right. Habits of standards and discipline. And if the answer is yes, awesome, how do we sustain?
"If we have some shortfalls, then how do we build those habits back into our ground rules. I observe all of the things cadets balance in a normal day and ask-am I enabling cadets to eat right, sleep right, maintain physical fitness and achieve impeccable standards and discipline-key habits that they can carry into the Army as junior leaders."
PV: Are there experiences during your time in the Army that have shaped your thoughts on leadership and the role having good habits plays?
KM: "As a cadet, I was fortunate enough to take part in a CTLT in Germany. I was fortunate enough that unit out of Berlin was going to the training center in Hohenfels, Germany. I felt like as the leader, I needed to be up. I needed to stay up. I went probably three days with no sleep. By the end of that I remember, I was absolutely incoherent. I was nonfunctional. I actually fell asleep. I woke up 19 hours later-19!
"My NCO, Staff Sgt. Roberts, looked at me and he said, 'Did you learn a lesson? You've missed an entire battle. I hope you've learned a lesson. You have to sleep as a leader.' Early in my cadet career, I learned habits and understanding the function of sleep are huge.
"So that experience, fast forward now 29 years later, I understand the habits of sleeping. And I learned that back as a young cadet."
PV: Following a 30-day assessment, you and the commandant announced some changes to policy focused on developing positive habits. What did you find during those 30 days and how did that impact your decision?
KM: "Some of my data points were going to sleep at 2 or 3 in the morning was OK routinely to get up at 5:30. They're not quite meeting what research is telling us is appropriate sleep. So, it's a habit. Eating is very much the same. Breakfast is optional. It's one of the things that changed from when I was here.
"Many responded that they go to the grab-and-go and grab a power bar. It puts something in their stomach. I have had conversations with cadets where I share that if you feed your body with only a power bar as a lieutenant and you think you can do a 10, 12, 20-mile ruck march, you're going to fall out. You just can't physically do that. If you're allowing your Soldiers to do that then you're not teaching them right nutrition."
PV: As these changes are implemented, what do you hope the cadets know about you and the process you and the commandant are working through?
KM: "As we were working through some of these changes, I watched some of the comments made online about a lot of leaders, it's pretty vicious. Come knock on my door, and let's have a professional conversation. I don't bite. Any cadet could walk in my door today, sit down and say 'Sir, I don't agree with policy letter X and here's why.' I want them to know I listen pretty well. We may not change to what they want, but I want them to know they have the opportunity to come and voice their concerns."
PV: What do you hope cadets take away from their time at West Point and specifically your tenure as BTO?
KM: "I want cadets to appreciate that they attend a sacred institution-a very special place. I want them to love it as much as I do. I am so thankful for the West Point experience.
"If when I leave here the cadets looked at Col. Marsh and said, 'You know he was hard, he was fair, he ruthlessly enforced standards and disciplines and we have better habits. I understand why eating is important. I understand why sleep is important. I understand why working out is important.' Then I'm satisfied."