HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s inspector general said everything he needed to succeed as a combat arms officer he learned from the ROTC program at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville.
Col. Oscar W. Doward Jr. spoke to the university’s current ROTC cadets during an officer professional development session at the Frank E. Lewis Gymnasium on campus on Oct. 6.
“Being a cadet here…you all stand apart from your peers,” Doward said. “You all have to follow regulations and rules that your counterparts out there not in ROTC don’t have to worry about. You guys have to stay physically fit. You have to come to (physical training). You have to come to your leadership labs. You have to take these courses. You’re learning how to become leaders of men and women in all different types of branches in our Army. So what you guys are doing is a bit more than what the average student is doing.”
Doward said the ROTC program left him with a sense of pride and who he is and what he represents.
“That sense of pride and going here helped me. It helped to drive me to be successful because I knew I was going to have to compete,” Doward said. “To get where I am today, I had to compete against everybody from everywhere. From service academies, from (Virginia Military Institute), from any other university, new guys coming out of here, I knew that I could compete, and I could be successful. That’s one thing that still drives me to this day.”
The Bulldog Officer Professional Development Program is a new addition to the ROTC program that the new professor of military sciences, Lt. Col. Early Howard Jr., implemented when he saw a lack of mentorship in the program. Howard said the program is important because it lets cadets know they are not alone.
“I will tell you it has positively impacted the students because they understand that it’s not just them,” Howard said.
There are people who started college just as confused as the cadets were who took a chance on ROTC and were able to navigate through and commission into the Army, Howard said.
“They just hit the ground running and were very successful. And when you see that and you hear it, ‘Ok, well, if they can do it, why can’t I?’” Howard said. “So I think it’s super important. It’s needed, and I definitely think the cadets are benefitting from it.”
Doward spoke about his experience in field artillery and how to succeed in the branch, as well as shared recorded testimonials from junior officers in the branch.
“You’re an integrator,” Doward said when speaking about being a field artillery officer. “You have to know what everybody else is doing, their capabilities as a brand-new lieutenant because you bring it all together, and I could talk to everyone. It was a pretty key job. That part of it I didn’t get until I got on the ground.”
Cadet Battalion Commander Dequez Andrews said that it was beneficial to hear from someone who has achieved what Doward has. Seeing people who came from the program lets cadets know they can do this and has propelled freshman and sophomores in the program to pursue a contract, Andrews said.
“…They see someone that’s like them or see someone that came from where they came from…and now they’re in the Army doing amazing things,” Andrews said.
Cadet Taylor Wingo, executive officer of Alpha Company, said the session provided opportunities to network and learn new things.
“…It shows us more of what we could be in the future and how we can help,” said Wingo. “It shows us that there are people who care and want to help us.”
Doward said he was excited to talk to current cadets in the program.
“For me, it is like a dream come true. I never thought I’d get a chance to be stationed at Huntsville, Alabama, while I’m active duty because I’m a field artillery officer and, historically, there really aren’t positions for guys like me here,” Doward said.
“Being here at A&M to talk about my successes and failures in the military to these cadets is great. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Doward said. “I’m a former education major and, like I said, I have advanced degrees in education, so I’m all about being able to reach out and impart knowledge and wisdom.”