April 28th, 2020
In fall of ’83, thirty-seven years ago, I was a new cadet. By then, the Academy had seen the arrival of new cadets for some eighty-five years, thus, while part of its annual cycle, the day was otherwise unremarkable. However, as with any new cadet, and just as true for me, that arrival into Camp Hill was quite remarkable. The anticipation, the nervousness, fear and trepidation of the unknown, inevitable pangs of homesickness before the family car even left the drive.
I was a mere lump of clay with heart, soul, and mind. But, what I lacked was the kind of self-discipline required to truly achieve: to be more. Instead I was, well – had been, the class clown. My aptitude was not rising to its full potential due to my attitude. Not the first time that student scenario had popped onto the campus in Camp Hill.
Of course, development of the whole man is not just left to the Academic Department; the other bookend being the Military Department, top that with an active Athletic Department, and now you have a trifecta of life changing forces bearing down on a new cadet. I should mention we also had an all faith chapel. Spirituality was not a great strength at that time in my life, but the Sunday sermons & examples of faith on campus were still a comfort.
In fact, in terms of imparting some effect on me, maybe I should include the campus itself. The rolling hills, the woods, the lakes, the parade field. The barn. The range. The wide-open spaces where you can go & be with friends, be boys, but also find solitude. The campus is uniquely situated and very well suited for its purpose.
Order and structure were everywhere. Tallapoosa Hall, the barracks, the ball fields, off campus trips. Parades. Rafting. Drill competitions. Games. Uniforms. Inspections. Salutes. The mess hall. Sure, you drilled, and of course you studied. Working on you like water on rocks. Having the intended effect and quite directly, whether you realized it at the time or not.
The teachers, coaches, and TACs were real mentors: always giving of themselves and committed to long hours on campus. Coach Fare stated one evening during study hall rounds, when he caught me playing cards, “If you quit studying, the party’s over.” He was so right. Be prepared. Don’t make life unduly harder on yourself by being a slacker. Find a balance so you can accomplish the mission and still enjoy life.
There was also cadet leadership. The hierarchy of rank. Any infractions came with immediate consequences: “Drop & give me twenty!” Yet, rank alone did not make the cadet a leader. That gift, that aspect, the JROTC program, taught us that leadership is fleeting. People won’t follow a title. Sure, they will when it’s required. But, to be inspired, people want and need more. They will follow, or not follow, the individual.
What we see is old meets new. Tried and true approaches of developing boys into fine young men. The life lessons are the same in so many ways, but the vehicles in which the lessons are delivered are ever changing. By embracing technology, the campus activities, and cadet day-to-day life, have changed over the years. Air conditioning in the dorms. An established aviation program. Comprehensive drone program. New for this fall, a SCUBA diving program. The Academy is ahead of the curve.
In fact, by being ahead of the curve, when COVID-19 hit, the Academy already had online learning in place. A blessing of preparedness which allowed the school to continue its mission.
After four years, in the spring of ’87, I came away with the very same thing our class of 2020 has received. Self-discipline, the ability to manage oneself, cadence, and an approach. These soon to be new grads have learned that hope is not a strategy, and that luck really is where preparation meets opportunity. Leadership is influencing people in such a manner as to accomplish the mission.
Most importantly, they will see in time what we alums already know. They are coming away with an unimaginable brotherhood. A common bond with all past, present, and future Rangers.
Godspeed to the Class of 2020. Welcome to our unimaginable brotherhood!
Carey Treadwell, Class of ‘87
President, The Alumni Association of SII / Lyman Ward Military Academy