Service and Leadership: Naval ROTC unit leads by example
|This in the fourth in an occasional series highlighting the unique educational environment at The Citadel. "Service and Leadership" will profile people and events that exemplify "The Citadel Experience," its leadership laboratory and the college's mission of achieving excellence in the education of principled leaders.|
Naval ROTC at The Citadel
The Citadel Naval ROTC Program is one of 59 NROTC units throughout the country whose mission is to prepare young men and women for commissioning into the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.
There’s no mistaking it – Capt. Matthew Kutilek is a Marine. You can see it in the way he carries himself. You can see it in how he interacts with cadets and fellow Marines. He takes his responsibility as a mentor and leader seriously because he knows what can happen if he doesn’t.
In war, it can get him and his men killed.
The Class of 2001 graduate has been deployed twice to Iraq since 2003. During his second deployment in late 2004 he participated in the famed Battle of Fallujah, leading a platoon of 38 Marines and 2 Navy Corpsman from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion 8th Marines. A portion of his time there is captured in the book “On Call in Hell,” by Cdr. Richard Jadick, the Navy Battalion Surgeon in Kutilek’s unit.
Kutilek says his education and leadership training at The Citadel gave him the foundation he needed to be a good Marine and, ultimately, a leader in war.
“At The Citadel I learned humility and followership as a knob and then as an upperclassman I learned many of the intrinsic qualities of leadership,” he said. “My leadership training and experience as a cadet first sergeant and Hotel Company commander was the foundation for my Marine Corps career. I learned responsibility, accountability, toughness, conviction and physical and moral courage. All of those things helped me and continually help me in the Marine Corps.”
Kutilek knows many of the college’s 12 Iraq and Afghanistan war dead. Including two of his '01 classmates and Marines 1st Lt. Shane Childers, and 1st Lt. Dan Malcom Jr. Having lost people who are friends and brothers can seem like a huge burden for one person to carry. Kutilek, however, considers it a privilege to honor the memory of each of them. One, in particular, Malcom remains with him all the time.
Jadik describes this in his book: “Kutilek…returned from Iraq carrying a single rifle slug. It is a small thing, a chunk of lead core and brass jacket bent into a claw on impact and scarred by the barrel of the Dragunov sniper rifle that sent it slamming into his friend and fellow Citadel graduate...Kutilek says the slug that killed Dan Malcom is a reminder of all the men who aren’t coming home – a reminder for himself but also for the country. ..’I bring it out on certain occasions and try to convey to people the importance of this,” Kutilek says. “That this United States Marine gave his life, and this is the bullet that took him, and he died on November tenth, the Marine Corps birthday, for your protection…My goal is to never let these guys die in vain.’ ”
Kutilek sometimes shares that story with cadets he teaches, just as he occasionally shares his experiences in Iraq. It’s not often, though. Telling stories too much diminishes the importance of the lessons he has learned and the experiences he has had.
Kutilek sometimes shares his war stories with cadets he teaches, just as he occasionally shares his experiences in Iraq. It’s not often, though. Telling stories too much diminishes the importance of the lessons he has learned and the experiences he has had.
“If you tell them about it every day, it’s just another war story. I try to save them for key occasions, when I know our students will appreciate and learn from the message and the lessons learned.”
When it comes to the war “I try to convey to them the importance of the job and responsibility they are about to take on and that they are in charge of people’s lives – whether someone lives or dies is up to them. Now, while they are in school, is when they should take advantage of the time they have to learn and study so they can be prepared. It’s just like medical school or law school, you study and practice now to be better at what you are going to do later.”
Kutilek prefers to teach leadership through personal example.
“The single greatest method to teach leadership is through personal example. I hold myself to high physical, mental and moral standards. It is impossible to teach leadership in the classroom if you yourself are not a leader when you step outside.”
Kutilek’s time at The Citadel is now limited. In May his three-year stint as an instructor in the Naval ROTC unit comes to an end. He is off next to Expeditionary Warfare School, then he will be a company commander. He may well end up in Iraq again one day. And he may well serve alongside some of the cadets he has had the opportunity to mentor and teach.
“I am sure some of the cadets I am instructing now will be lieutenants under me. My purpose for returning to The Citadel was to help mentor, teach and train future Marine Corps officers. I wanted to have an impact on the future of the Marine Corps and I thought this school and the Marine Corps ROTC department, which is one of the largest in the nation, would provide me with the best avenue to do that. I look forward to working with them again someday.”