From one cadet to another: What it's like to lead the South Carolina Corps of Cadets
By Cadet Logan Hester, Regimental Public Affairs Officer
The cadet holding the highest position of authority at one of the nation’s most prestigious military colleges is John Brosch who is from Dexter, Michigan. Brosch, an education major, is Regimental Commander in charge of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He was chosen for the distinguished position by the college’s leadership last spring. During the 2014-15 academic year, Brosch is responsible for leading the Corps and for helping mold the young men and women into principled leaders, like many of their predecessors who have gone on to be generals, admirals, governors, congressmen and CEOs.
Brosch is commanding approximately 2,300 cadets during a year that may be one of the most demanding of his life. The following is a conversation between Brosch (JB) and The Citadel’s Regimental Public Affairs Officer, Logan Hester, (LH), who is also a senior cadet.
LH: The position of Regimental Commander is not only a prestigious position; it is also known to be relentlessly demanding. You are in a spotlight for the entire year and the success of the Corps as a whole is a reflection of your work. I thought it would be helpful for people to know more about you. Let’s start off by describing your life before The Citadel, high school in particular.
JB: I was a two-sport athlete: hockey and lacrosse. I was pretty involved with both sports. I served as a captain of both teams during my senior year. After I graduated high school, I went to community college for a year while working about 30 hours a week and also coaching lacrosse for the high school.
LH: What made you choose The Citadel?
JB: Back at home, I had a couple of friends who were interested in attending military colleges and we talked quite a bit about all of them. I decided to apply to The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute and Norwich. It was The Citadel’s admissions team that really made the decision easy because of their willingness to guide me.
LH: South Carolina is a good distance away from your home in Michigan. Did you visit The Citadel before arriving to begin your knob (freshman) year?
JB: I did, but only two weeks before I was expected to report to the Corps and by then I knew that’s where I should go to college.
LH: I’m sure your life now, as a senior, is dramatically different than that of other college students. What is a typical day for you as Regimental Commander?
JB: I get up every day, usually around 0630. My day begins with uniform prep prior to breakfast formation. Uniform prep consists of polishing brass, shining shoes and making sure everything looks good and is within school regulations. My role at breakfast formation is to check on the different battalions to see how they are doing and to see how effectively our cadet officers are interacting with knobs and other cadets–how they are leading them.
I also use that time to talk to the Battalion Commanders about any concerns or problems they might have. The entire Corps must be present and in proper uniform to attend breakfast together. Two days a week we have PT, or physical training, before that uniform inspection and breakfast formation. Those are the really early days. PT usually includes stretching, stationary exercises (pushups, situps, mountain climbers, etc.) and a group run. We strive for excellence in every way and that includes physical fitness, so I work out on my own almost every afternoon, in addition to the exercise I get from Corps and Army ROTC PT.
After breakfast, like any other student, I go to classes. During the day I meet with the Commandant, who is the administrative leader for the Corps, as well as other members of his staff to find out about any training schedule changes for the cadets. During lacrosse season I have practice and then the studying begins. When I finish studying, I begin preparing for the next day and looking ahead to the next week.
LH: That’s a lot to do each day. How do you balance your duties as Regimental Commander with lacrosse and your other interests?
JB: Time management. Looking ahead and being well organized goes a long way toward building a little time for extras. In a highly structured military culture such as The Citadel, everyone is constantly under time constraints. Finding any spare time at all can be difficult, but when you do, it is very rewarding. I’ve learned to build in a little catch-up time for myself during the day, usually just prior to evening study period, which helps.
LH: Why did you want to be Regimental Commander?
JB: I was chosen to be the Regimental Sergeant Major my junior year without having applied for it. Working last year with Collin Hicks who was the Regimental Commander, as well as with the Regimental Executive Officer, showed me what the position entailed. They listened to my input and together we worked hard toward improving the Corps. That’s always been my goal: helping to make the place that has given me so much a little better. That’s why I applied to be Regimental Commander.
LH: What is your favorite aspect of being Commander so far?
JB: I love all of the people I get to interact with. I get to hear a lot of different perspectives from people, especially fellow upperclassmen who are on contract with the military. It’s really nice to have that relationship and to be able to trust that they feel I am approachable enough to give me feedback on what’s going on and what they see around the school. It’s also nice as the Commander to see the big picture because of my interactions with the Commandant’s department. It gives me a better understanding about why things are conducted the way they are, or why we do things a certain way.
LH: What is your biggest challenge as Commander?
JB: The most challenging aspect so far is instilling the importance of standardization. We have five different barracks, and each has its own culture. We are working very hard at communicating how daily operations, inspections, PT, and many other aspects are executed so that we can be the same throughout the Corps of Cadets. The end goal is by the year end, to be able to walk into all five barracks and see each unit doing things the same as the other four barracks. We are off to a good start this year, but there’s always room to improve. When you are trying to give cadets in five different barracks, which are run by different cadre, a similar experience, there will always be challenges.
LH: What has surprised you the most about the position, or has it been what you expected?
JB: I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of latitude I have as Commander. I’m able to make a lot of decisions based on what I believe as a leader that is best for the Regiment. I receive support from outside of the Corps, which I really appreciate, and I may ask for opinions as Commander, but in the end I make the decisions on many issues. I appreciate alumni who are allowing me to learn and grow as a leader while I am in this position, rather than trying to dictate what I do.
LH: Were there any leaders in the Corps when you were younger that you looked up to and tried to emulate?
JB: Sure, my senior mentor when I was a knob was the Company Commander, Chris Gamble, who is now a first lieutenant with the 101st Airborne and is currently deployed. He was one of those guys that was always squared away; always did the right thing. I like the fact that I have been able to realize that we are very different socially, but share a mutual respect for one another to this day.
LH: How has The Citadel developed your leadership style?
JB: It’s pretty interesting to look at how my perspective changed as I progressed through the years here. I went straight from the company level my sophomore year to being the highest-ranking junior in the Corps which gave me a very different perspective. You really have to learn to prioritize at the higher level. I think seeing that larger picture of what’s important for the institution and the Corps as a whole has helped me as a leader.
LH: What’s the most important thing you have learned so far?
JB: Being approachable and being humble is incredibly important to being an effective leader. If people don’t like you because they think you put yourself on a pedestal then they aren’t going to approach you with problems or solutions, especially solutions. Solutions are so important to hear; anybody can identify a problem, but being able to approach someone in a leadership position with a possible solution is a different thing entirely. Good leaders know they don’t have all the answers to everything. Some people in positions of authority seem to believe that their subordinates can be ignored. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth.
LH: What are your plans after graduation?
JB: I want to commission as an infantry officer in the Army and I’m going to put in for extra active duty years of service to hopefully make sure I can get that branch. But no matter what job I have in the Army, I will be proud to serve my country. It is something that I take very seriously. I’m really looking forward to the challenges and responsibilities a career in military service will provide. I’m fortunate to be able to hone some of my skills as a leader here at The Citadel, because when I get into the Army with real soldiers and real-life consequences, I don’t want to make costly mistakes.
John Brosch’s parents are Craig and Denise Brosch. They currently reside in Charleston, SC.