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Top Cadets honored at Marshall Awards

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George C. Marshall

Attendees at the 2009 George C. Marshall Awards Seminar gather on the grounds of Washington and Lee University for a group photo before the closing ceremony. (by Forrest Berkshire)

by Forrest Berkshire
U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs

LEXINGTON, Va. – Some of the Army’s most influential decision-makers last week honored this year’s top Cadets.

From Guam to Puerto Rico to Maine, the No. 1 Cadet from each program spent three days on the historic campuses of the Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee University for the 32nd annual George C. Marshall Awards seminar. Nearly every program of Cadet Command’s 273 programs was represented, as well as some special invitees from West Point and other service academies.

The days were a mix of roundtable discussions with senior leaders and subject matter experts, guest speakers such as Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Army Secretary Pete Geren, tours of the VMI grounds, a parade by WMI Cadets in their honor and networking opportunities for Cadets to get to know their peers a little better.

Leonna McCoats, a Hampton University nursing major, was struck by the culture of the whole affair.

“I don’t think as a Cadet you are ever surrounded by this much military,” she said.

McCoats said the event hit home that her time in college and ROTC were coming to an end, and her career was about to begin.

“It’s like, ‘O.K., Cadet land is ending, real world is beginning,’ ” she said.

Part of that realization, McCoats said, was the amount of responsibility that would soon be in her hands.
“I don’t think you understand fully (as a Cadet) the responsibility you have as a U.S. officer,” she said. “I think this puts it into perspective. It’s expressed to you.”

Besides the culture of the event, some Cadets were also impressed with the knowledge they gained from the roundtables and speakers.

“I really liked hearing from the NCOs because that’s who we’re supposed to be learning the most from,” said Meredith Woodard, a Cadet from Louisiana State University. “They were really able to tell you what they will expect of you.”
On most campuses, Cadets’ exposure to NCOs is limited. Yet, with their first assignment, they will be working with them daily.

Each Cadet was required to attend a roundtable discussion on the role of the platoon leader/NCO relationship.

Many of the Cadets’ questions across different discussion groups centered on the same concerns. They ranged from worries about joining units in the middle of a deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and how they would be accepted to how to deal with Soldiers going through divorce or other personal struggles that might affect the Soldiers’ job performance.

Sgt. 1st Class John Leggat, from SUNY Brockport, emphasized to the Cadets in his group to rely on the experience of the platoon sergeant, who will possess many years of experience on which the new second lieutenants can draw upon.

“You two are married,” he said. “You don’t approach Soldiers without talking to him.”

Eastern Region Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Green added to his comment.

“It is a marriage,” he said, expanding on the analogy. “Like a mom and dad, you each have a role.”
One Cadet asked about counseling a platoon sergeant who would be the same age as the Cadet’s father, and was concerned about a response such as “Why would I want to listen to you?”

“My life depends on you,” Leggat said, as a platoon sergeant. “Their lives depend on you.”

While the days of the seminar were filled with real-world advice, Cadets also took the chance to relax somewhat and to meet with senior Army leaders. At the head table during each meal, a few Cadets were selected to sit with the guest speakers.

One of those Cadets was Theresa Ockrassa, from the University of Texas, who found herself sitting beside Geren.
Geren spoke to her at some length, and they found they had something in common and current to talk about. During dinner, Geren was preparing to talk to the Cadets about the Army’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual assaults on Soldiers, in which the majority of victims are women.

Ockrassa had just finished her thesis on women in the military and boundaries they have had to overcome. Between the two topics, Geren’s speech and Ockrassa’s thesis, the two found several parallels.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Ockrassa said. “Mostly he was just interested in what I had to say.”

Ockrassa was a little taken aback at Geren having interest in what a Cadet would have to say.

“You usually have to have a couple more stars on your lapel,” she said.

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Written by CadetCommandPAO

April 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Posted in News

Tagged with , ,

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