By Brandon OConnorJanuary 22, 2020
Since taking over as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy last summer, one of Brig. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard's main focuses has been improving the habits of the current cadets in the corps.
This has included teaching them about the importance of physical fitness, how to eat correctly and the value of getting enough sleep. Along with making sure the cadets are equipped with the correct physical habits to lead Soldiers into combat, Buzzard has worked to make sure the cadets have the necessary tools to not just lead but lead well.
This includes making sure they are mentally equipped to make tough decisions through the professional habit of reading. His efforts are meant to complement the work the Dean and academic departments do in preparing cadets to think critically.
To accomplish that mission, Buzzard compiled a recommended reading list for the corps of cadets, which currently includes 43 books. The books are divided into three categories-military leadership and the crucible of ground combat, the art of leadership and influencing people, and understanding the 21st century operating environment.
The books include classics such as "Once an Eagle" and "This Kind of War," leadership books such as "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and more covering a wide spectrum of leadership, warfighting and the changing battlefield.
"The idea was to hit multiple key areas-the art of leadership, the application of leadership in combat and understanding the current and future operating environment," Buzzard said. "Some were personal favorites that had a formative impact on me, while others were recommendations from others. The list includes a broad range of authors and perspectives."
Along with compiling the full recommended reading list, Buzzard selected "The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education" as the focus book for the fall semester. The book was written by West Point Class of 2000 graduate Craig Mullaney, a Rhodes Scholar and Airborne Ranger who deployed to Afghanistan during his time in the Army.
The book starts during Mullaney's time at West Point and covers his time in Afghanistan, including the moment mentioned in the title when a member of his platoon was killed in a firefight. He also wrote about the last few years of his Army career post-deployment.
"Interestingly, I chose a book that I had not read before but was highly recommended by people whose opinion I highly valued. I wanted a book cadets could relate to and ideally bring the author to West Point to discuss it. After reading it, I thought it was exactly what I was looking for from a book," Buzzard said. "It emphasizes the importance of being a Soldier scholar, something I am absolutely passionate about, and the idea of lifelong learning and self-development. It's also a great example of grit and resiliency as the author copes with a casualty in combat."
Along with selecting the book as the featured one for this academic year, Buzzard invited Mullaney to come to West Point Jan. 16 to hold a book club style question and answer session with cadets. During his talk, Mullaney answered questions about his time at Oxford, Ranger school, his post Army career, the writing process and more.
"I hadn't expected the degree to which the book helped address an issue I was feeling very acutely and that was the sense of alienation between myself and my peers who have come through this crucible experience and the vast majority of very well meaning American citizens who had a hard time relating to what we've gone through," Mullaney said. "You can either curse the dark or you can light a candle and the book ended up being a bridge between the community we are all deeply involved in and love and the larger community we are a part of."
The commandant said his goal through the creation of the list and inviting Mullaney to talk with cadets was to show them the value of reading as a professional habit as they continue to prepare to lead Soldiers in the crucible of ground combat.
"I hope they can learn lessons in these books that they can apply as commissioned officers," Buzzard said. "Bottomline, I hope it complements everything else they do here and assists in getting them prepared. Ideally, reading will in some way contribute to their success."
The commandant's entire reading list can be found by going to bit.ly/comm_reading.
For this current semester, Buzzard has chosen "Red Platoon," by Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha as the featured book.