New ROTC Leader Uses Experience To Educate, Train, Inspire
|Lt. Col. Robert McCormick joined the Bearkat Battalion over the summer as the department chair for the Military Science department. Highly decorated, he brings with him experience from three tours of duty, including two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. —Photos by Brian Blalock|
Lt. Col. Robert McCormick has been on a few battlefields over the years, watching over brigades and steering his comrades to safety.
Today, he's on a college campus, watching over the ROTC and turning his cadets into officers.
McCormick, a 39-year-old father of three, is the new chair of the Military Science department at Sam Houston State University.
His mission is clear.
"Failure is not an option in our business," McCormick said. "Failure means soldiers are dying and that we're about to be defeated; not acceptable. I want a winning attitude, a team attitude—and that's what I bring to the SHSU ROTC program."
Before arriving in Huntsville, McCormick was a deputy commander for the Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Polk in Louisiana.
Becoming a professor of military science is a feat in itself. McCormick said some 700 people applied for approximately 60 positions across the nation—and was thrilled when he got the call from SHSU, his No. 1 choice for two reasons.
First, his wife April has the opportunity to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. SHSU is one of only a few schools in the nation to have such a program.
Second, McCormick is practically a native Texan, give or take a couple hundred miles.
Originally from Plaquemine, La., located about 15 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, McCormick grew up with a hardworking father and a homemaker mother. Neither of his parents finished high school, so it was important to them that their son graduated.
McCormick wasn't thinking much about college, though. In fact, he almost joined the Navy straight out of high school. But a few twists, turns and setbacks put him on a new path. McCormick opted for college, and that's when he learned about ROTC.
"I heard there were scholarships available, and for a guy who was taking out loans for college, well, this sounded pretty good to me—and I'm a patriotic guy," McCormick said. "I didn't know that I could go to college and be in the Army."
He could, and he did. McCormick landed a three-year scholarship from the Army. He was commissioned a second lieutenant of air defense artillery and was a distinguished military graduate from Louisiana State University.
McCormick didn't stop there. He went on to earn a degree in criminal justice from Southeastern Louisiana University, followed by four master’s degrees: Master of Science in public administration and Master of Art in management from Webster University; a Military Arts and Science degree from the Advanced Military Studies Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.; and an Operational Art and Science degree from Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
McCormick's twin brother Thomas also went on to a higher level of education, in this case a juris doctorate. Both brothers embarked on military careers, Thomas as a JAG officer in the Air Force and McCormick as an officer in the Army.
"While I was kicking down doors and arresting bad guys in Iraq," McCormick said, "my twin brother was prosecuting them through the Iraqi judicial system to keep them off of the streets."
McCormick served two deployments to Iraq, in 2003 and 2006-2007, followed by one year in Afghanistan in 2011. His awards and badges include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Senior Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and the Combat Action Badge.
He also earned a Bronze Star…twice. The Bronze star is the fourth-highest individual military award, bestowed for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
While both medals were for service in Iraq in 2003 and 2007, the first one is particularly memorable due to the worldwide attention the initial situation generated.
"A convoy of maintenance folks had been misdirected, ended up in enemy territory and were ambushed," McCormick said. "A lot of folks got killed that day. It was the same ambush in which Jessica Lynch was captured by Saddam Hussein's forces."
The Pentagon notified McCormick's unit, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, that they needed "boots on the ground" to secure lines of communication between Kuwait and Baghdad.
"We had military intelligence with us, top-secret equipment," McCormick said. "My job, once we got there, was to get us into northwest Baghdad, secure the perimeter, and allow the rest of the forces to move in. It was a hectic time, to say the least. I could tell you about the firefights…but I'd rather not.
"The reason I got the Bronze Star is because I was a leader. I was out there on a daily basis, doing what was right for the unit, making sure they were protected so that they could do their job."
|McCormick (left) has acclimated well at SHSU, bringing his Louisiana roots to Bearkat tailgating this season by serving some Cajun favorites at the ROTC tent.|
These are the kind of leadership skills that McCormick is eager to instill in his ROTC students at SHSU.
"We focus on educating, training and inspiring cadets so that once they become commissioned, they are commissioned as a leader with character, with Army values—loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," he said.
Cadets learn about the roles and responsibilities of a company formation, risk management and safety procedures, mission analysis, the Law of Land Warfare and more. McCormick will also invite professionals from a wide range of industries to speak to his cadets on campus. And, during “Combat Stress Management” courses, he will be honest about his own diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"I fight every day to be out in front of people, I don't like going into crowded stores, I'm always on alert, I sleep with one eye open—when I do sleep," McCormick said. "But talking and sharing with other veterans helps."
McCormick is steadfast in his commitment to veterans, so he wants to make sure his cadets are involved in hosting on-campus veteran-related events and activities.
McCormick also has his eye on another goal that he hopes to achieve during his three-year stint at SHSU—to be among the top 10 percent of ROTC universities recognized by the U.S. Army Cadet Command. This includes an award from the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Foundation, which is based on academic GPA, the number of cadets commissioned, and the involvement of cadets in the community. McCormick said the last time SHSU received that award was in 1990.
Out of a potential 20,000 candidates, McCormick received the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award in 2003—another tie to why he wants the ROTC Battalion to be the best.
"I can't think of a better place to be than SHSU," McCormick said. "Texas, unequivocally without a doubt, is a very patriotic state. It's an honor to be able to use all of the tools and information I've gathered over the years and share it with bright, energetic cadets and students."
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