From one cadet to another: a day in the life of the Regimental Commander of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets
Senior year often brings new leadership opportunities for cadets at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the most prestigious and historic military colleges in the nation. This year, Jimmy Urban, who is from Randolph, New Jersey, finds himself at the apex of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets as regimental commander.
Urban was chosen for this position from amongst his peers while still a junior, following a rigorous selection process by the college’s leadership. Urban, who is attending the college on a Navy contract and is also a member of the track and field team, is now responsible for commanding approximately 2,300 cadets. He directs all members of the Corps in their development as principled leaders based on the four pillars of The Citadel which include the academic, military, moral/ethical, and physical pillars.
The following is a conversation between Urban (JU), and The Citadel Regimental Public Affairs Officer, Brianna Young (BY), who is also a senior.
BY: Achieving the position of regimental commander is an amazing accomplishment, but it is also known to be relentlessly demanding. The success of the Corps is considered to be a direct reflection of your leadership so I thought it’d be helpful for everyone to get to know you better and to learn how you face your challenging roles here.
The Citadel prides itself in a successful mentorship program and the gradual progression of leadership skills acquired during a cadet’s freshmen to senior years. Who in your life has proven to be the most influential person in your personal development and why?
JU: My father. He taught me that passion is most important. Whether it was sports in high school, or the obstacles of life, my dad has always been there to support me. Not once did he push me in the direction that he thought was best. He left those decisions to me. I appreciate the freedom of choice that I was given because it taught me that one has to do what he/she truly wants, not what others want for them. The Citadel and the military meant being far from home for long periods of time, but it was what I wanted. He continues to support it.
BY: Moving so far away from New Jersey and your family must have been a difficult decision. What led you to choose The Citadel in the first place?
JU: I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the United States Navy. The Citadel offered me the opportunity to obtain a scholarship and receive more than just an academic education like I would receive at a state college or university. I am not a legacy cadet, nor was I recruited by any graduates of The Citadel. I’ve also never had any family connections to the military nor any who have even visited South Carolina. I simply heard about The Citadel, believed in its mission, knew what the graduates stood for, and applied on a whim. When I got here in August of 2012 and witnessed what cadet life was truly about, the meaning behind the band of gold, and the opportunities that I would have during my four years, I knew I wanted to stay.
BY: Did you ever consider attending a different college or university and what were some of the expectations you had of The Citadel before you matriculated?
JU: I applied to various other senior military colleges around the nation and considered running track for schools closer to home. The Citadel stood out as the place I wanted to be a part of because of its history, tradition, and the pride of its graduates.
I expected The Citadel to challenge me more than just academically. I saw knob (freshman) year as an opportunity to grow and I did my best to do so. I entered thinking it was okay to be an individual. I learned quickly that the only way to succeed is to work as part of a unit.
BY: How did you prepare for your first year? If you could offer any advice to incoming freshmen, what would it be?
JU: It was difficult to prepare for an institution that I was not yet a part of. I tried to get the best picture possible from friends or even the internet. To be honest, nothing could have prepared me for the ride I began on Matriculation Day, which is the first day a freshman reports to campus.
Obviously, being physically fit and ready to take on the considerable academic requirements of the college are crucial to success. The only advice I could offer to an incoming freshmen would be to focus on what is important. Stick to your principles – that is the true mark of an exceptional leader. There is also now a program incoming freshmen can attend the summer before they report which is a great way to get acclimated to the military lifestyle. It tends to put those cadets a notch or two ahead of the others who don’t attend. It’s called The Citadel Success Institute.
BY: I bet you had no idea that you would be Regimental Commander of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets when you matriculated four years ago. Between running track, obligations to the United States Navy, and normal cadet life, you must be incredibly busy. Can you describe a typical day for you and how do you think it compares to the average senior cadet?
JU: Every day I attempt to cover the diverse elements of my responsibilities as regimental commander and as a cadet at The Citadel. Overriding everything else are academics and the Navy. The Citadel would be nothing if it was not rooted in education, and the Navy will be my career upon graduation, so I exert the most energy toward classroom activities and homework, in addition to my Navy ROTC training.
My schedule differs from a regular cadet in some ways, but the basic requirements and hour by hour structure are the same. Each cadet at The Citadel is focused on a personally-tailored path, after his or her knob year. My path my final year is to lead and represent the entire Corps with the full devotion of my attention, caring and time.
On a typical day, I begin with a workout in the morning, and then initiate breakfast formation for the Corps; a great chance for me to see how different companies appear to be doing. After breakfast we have wall to wall classes.
After lunch formation, and more classes, I have track practice, labs, or meetings until dinner. I make it a mission of mine at the end of the day to review what was done right and wrong, and to see what can be improved upon with regard to my performance, and that of the Corps.
My bird’s eye view of the Corps is unique. I am one of only a few cadets with the privilege of seeing the entire structure work in unison, or not work in some cases, which is when our regimental staff jumps into action.
As I think of my daily schedule it reminds me about the relationships I have at this institution that make each day easier. They are ever-growing and are another top consideration for me. I believe that understanding your peers thoroughly leads to the betterment of an organization.
BY: What was been your favorite part about leading the Corps as regimental commander?
JU: I continue to be surprised everyday by The Citadel; life here is never boring. With a new day comes a new challenge. Peer leadership is by far the most difficult part of the position. My favorite part of being commander is the relationships I have built that I continue to nurture. The people you invest your time with will help shape your future. I cherish the relationships I have here.
BY: How would you describe your personal leadership style?
JU: With different strategies come different results; however I do my best to utilize the path-goal style of leadership that I have learned here. I believe that each situation has distinctive influences and factors that can require a different leadership approach. I try to respond supportive, directive, participative, or achievement oriented. Serving my cadets as much as they serve me remains a focus.
BY: Thank you for answering my questions. I have one more – what specifically do you hope to do in the Navy?
JU: I will commission as an Ensign in the Navy when I graduate in May as part of The Citadel Class of 2016. My goal is to become an explosive ordnance disposal technician, but above all, I just want to serve our country in the capacity where I can make the most difference.
Brianna Young is a member of The Citadel Class of 2016 majoring in political science. She was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Upon graduation, she will commission in the United States Army and pursue a career in legal and medical administration.