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Public Affairs : Cadet Leadership Series Part II

 CLS.jpgBy Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 10, 2013) — In this second installment of the Cadet Leadership Series, the Pointer View features four cadets who made an impact while serving on the Cadet Field Training task force this summer and were selected for brigade leadership positions this academic year. Class of 2014 Cadets Markos Magana, Rebecca Tummers, John Moreno and Kelly Washington served as the CFT regimental commander, personnel officer (S-1), operations officer (S-3), and communications officer (S-6). Today, they’re the brigade deputy commander, intelligence/public affairs officer, operations officer and communications officer, respectively.

Pointer View: What do you think it says about the CFT task force that so many of you were selected to serve on the brigade staff this academic year?

Magana: “Our task force became very close early on because we had a big problem to tackle. We had to provide the highest quality training to prepare these cadets for more advanced skills, but we had to do that under budget constraints, under time constraints. “With that, I would call it an all-star group of cadre leading CFT—and that translated well into the academic year where you now see five out of the seven primaries are on brigade staff; two are the executive officers for another regiment and another is command sergeant major for a regiment. So when you look at the upper echelon of cadets leading CBT, CFT, you can basically pick and choose anyone—they are all highly qualified and highly motivated and can fill any spot.”

Tummers: “I don’t think it has been that way in years’ past so it’s not something that typically happens. As a plebe and a yuk, I remember seeing the Beast cadre up in the top brigade positions those years, and I think this year, CFT just had a really great staff. “Probably one of the best CFT’s I’ve ever seen, just in terms of personalities and people’s ability to work together. We were all very motivated do-ers and didn’t need a lot of guidance. I think CFT was uniquely challenging because we had to shove everything into 19 days, so we were always on the go.”

Moreno: “A lot of our success is due to our trainers, the people who we called our ‘Tango elements.’ Like my mentor, Maj. (Joseph) Geraci, was a huge help to me and he ended up walking a lot of our staff through their roles and how to integrate with the S-3. He taught us how all the shops functioned together to meet the commander’s mission.”
TUMMERS -8x10.jpg
Class of 2014 Cadet Rebecca Tummers, Brigade Intelligence/Public Affairs officer
Class of 2014 Cadet John Moreno, Brigade Operations Officer

WASHINGTON -8x10.jpg
Class of 2014 Cadet Kelly Washinton, Brigade Communications Officer

Class of 2014 Cadet Markos Magana, Deputy Brigade Commander.                             Photos by John Pellino/DPTMS 

Washington: “The officers were evaluating us the whole time during CFT and testing us with difficult situations, and though we made mistakes you have to understand it’s a learning process as well.”

Magana: “When you’re looking at the camaraderie that we had during CFT and the training outcomes we achieved, that was unsurpassed by anybody else. You look at Jack Moreno, he was running an S-3 shop that you would see downrange on a brigade level. That’s how everything operated during CFT, we mimicked at Buckner the same brigade-level operation you would see downrange. “That last FTX, we ran a by-the-book 101st Airborne Division Air Assault operation for four days. That speaks volumes about all the people who made that work. We knew we weren’t in the 101st Airborne. We were just cadets trying to make it work. And we made it work with a little bit of guidance from our officers.”

Moreno: “We were very fortunate to get so many members from the CFT staff to come up together. And we worked with the parallel organizations over the summer—CBT I, CBT II, CCBT—working together on any conflictions we had in the schedules. So we knew who they were and the good work they were doing, and had been looking forward to meeting them on a more personal level. I’d seen them around the Corps before, but now I’m working with some of them toward a common goal.”

PV: How can you become a positive influence within the Corps of Cadets in your current position?

Tummers: “I think I can do that by giving every cadet a voice. We want to focus on some clubs and sports that don’t get a lot of visibility. Everyone knows the football team gets a lot of attention, so we want to promote those other teams that work just as hard. I think a lot of cadet activities and experiences aren’t publicized, so very few cadets actually participate in them. So that’s what I’m looking at doing, providing that voice.”
PV: What’s been the most rewarding leadership experience you’ve had at West Point?

Washington: “I served as a platoon sergeant at the Preparatory School where I learned about leadership through inspiration rather than leadership by intimidation. People who have led cadre before were usually aggressive and loud, trying to get that intimidation thing going. “I thought I wanted to be like that, but it’s not my leadership style. I never had to raise my voice and made sure I was treating them like adults. In that entire detail my platoon was on time, motivated to train and had respect for their cadre.”

Moreno: “That would have to be the one I just had this summer. When I was enlisted, I was part of the personal security detachment for my battalion commander and I technically fell under the S-3 shop, but only a small part of that. Having that experience this summer during CFT allowed me to see the rest of it and how it actually unites all the shops together to make the commander’s vision and the mission happen.”

Tummers: “I think the most rewarding experience I’ve had was being a first sergeant at the Prep School. Only because I was able to directly work with cadets who were mostly starting from scratch, just coming out of high school. At the same time we were also able to work with those prepsters who have already been in the Army and had more experience coming in. It was also rewarding to actually see them all finish Beast this year. Two summers later I’m walking down Thayer and hear the same greeting from new cadets that we used when they were cadet candidates. That’s pretty rewarding.”

PV: During the last three years at West Point, how would you say you’ve developed as a leader?

Washington: “I’m a guy that likes to get things done and sometimes that means doing it all by yourself. Once you get into bigger leadership roles, you have to learn how to delegate and disseminate the workload. That’s one of the commandant’s and first captain’s priorities: trust and cohesion. It’s important to provide your intent and then trust your subordinates to get the job done to standard. That’s probably one of the greatest things I’ve been able to learn, how to trust others to do the right thing and effective communication; being able to explain my intent and how to do something correctly on deadline.”

PV: The academy is your proving ground for leadership. Tell me what this means to you?

Magana: “My perspective is that this is the place where I can find out who I am as a leader; to see what works and what doesn’t. You should want to go out every day and be the kind of leader you would want to follow. If you’re not doing that then you are ultimately failing yourself and the Soldiers you’ll be leading in the future. “I look at it as every day having a different opportunity to lead, test myself and find out who I am as a leader. I earned the position of deputy brigade commander—it wasn’t given to me. But it’s a position I have to earn every single day to keep. I want to challenge myself here so when I step in front of my platoon for the first time I can look them in the eyes knowing I have prepared myself the best I could.”

PV: As the intelligence/public affairs officer, you have to be articulate and precise in getting out the best possible message about the academy. And in this age of social networking, brevity seems to matter most. So if you had to tweet the mission of this brigade staff in 140 characters what’s the message?

Tummers: “‘Excellence is a habit.’ That’s it. That’s our motto and that’s how we end all our correspondences. Short and to the point. Our first captain found that saying from Aristotle taken from a speech.”