Alex Huerta/The JTAC
Tarleton State University’s Corps of Cadets is one of only eight Corps of Cadet programs in the nation. The Corps of Cadets members at Tarleton learn to become resilient and caring leaders from being involved in the organization.
“The main thing [that cadets do is] take care of each other. That’s [our] purpose as an organization we want them to learn how to be leaders by learning how to take care of others. Our organizational structure is designed for that sole purpose. Our mission statement is to develop and inspire resilient, people focused 21 century leaders. Resilience and people focused are really the two characteristics that we want cadets to carry through life as a result of being in this program,” Tarleton’s Commandant Colonel Kenny Weldon said.
The definition of resilient from Oxford Languages is to be able to withstand and recover from difficult circumstances. Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets and Col. Weldon have a similar definition to the word.
“I think resiliency is taking who you are and learning traits that help you respond to life as it happens, last fall we implemented [our] 70 days [program] with our first-year seminar. So, these are combined efforts to teach resiliency. We use the current United States military model to do that and [the model] is based around a concept called comprehensive fitness. The Army has five elements to [comprehensive fitness] the Air Force has four, four of the elements for both the Army and the Air Force are the same. We replaced the Army’s fifth [element] with academics so, our five points of resiliency are academic fitness, physical fitness, emotional fitness, social fitness and spiritual fitness,” Col. Weldon said.
The comprehensive fitness method has been used by multiple branches of the military previously to help cadets become leaders but is not exclusive to the Tarleton cadets looking to join the military after they graduate.
“We use the term fitness because there’s a method to create a healthy lifestyle in each of these five areas. We spend the 70 days exploring how do you get fit and stay fit in these five areas. We work with the cadets and the cadet leadership [in roughly two-week blocks] and they talk and are focused on what are healthy lifestyles for academic success. Some of that is time management, looking at your syllabus. Physical fitness might be not only how many sit-ups, push-ups and your two-mile run time but [also] how much are you sleeping, what are you eating, what’s your calorie intake? In each of those areas we look at and have discussions about [how to be fit in these areas] so the byproduct of that is resiliency. You create scenarios in your life that allow you to adapt and deal with situations in each of these areas,” Col. Weldon said.
Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets is not associated with any one religion and any member of the Tarleton community who is interested in joining is welcome.
“Spiritual health is not about a [religion] or a faith it is about understanding that we all have a spiritual component in our life and we need to explore individually how to maintain that. So, it’s actually asking the question personally where am I and how do I deal with that component of my life. It’s recognizing [that aspect of your life] and it involves quiet time, meditation, how do you understand who you are? Those [are the types of questions we suggest that you ask.] In each of those five areas we come up with, and we ask the cadets to come up with, questions you would ask to determine whether or not you’re healthy in that area. We spend little to no time talking about specific religious components of this. It’s more of a discussion of you individually assessing what do you believe? It’s actually intended to just cause the discussions to take place,” Col. Weldon said.
Col. Weldon and his Assistant Commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Lee Evans, both teach the First-Year seminar for Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets and they often implement ideas from the 70 days program and comprehensive fitness into the seminar.
“One of the first lessons that I give [in the first-year seminar] is imagine those five areas and you having a gauge on your car with empty or full. Are you empty or full in each of those areas? So, all of us can work to improve on those areas and obviously it goes up and down so it’s not a static situation in anybody’s life so you’ve got to monitor it. You need to look at okay if I’m moving towards empty what do I do? Also recognize that sometimes a full tank in one area may hide an empty [in another area.] That’s how we talk about [comprehensive fitness and] for us theirs two elements to this we’ve got the freshman that we’re pouring into but the upperclassmen all have a role in communicating and participating in that. They learn how to talk to somebody about those things and have discussions within the chain of command,” Col. Weldon said.
The second main focus of the Corps’ mission statement revolves around teaching cadets to be people focused leaders.
“We have a phrase that is very important to the people focused piece of [our mission statement] we call it ARC 168. It stands for accountability, responsibility and commitment 168 hours a week. What we want is for you to be accountable, we want you to know the standard and to be accountable to that standard. We want you to be responsible for your actions to own it like I say if it is to be it’s up to me. Then commitment is if you’re successful then give others credit, if you fail then that’s a learning process but you’re committed to get back up and move forward. When you’re in the military it’s a 24/7 commitment so that’s what we want cadets to be as a part of this organization, truly committed to each other all the time,” Col. Weldon said.
This commitment begins even before the first day of classes for most cadets.
“When freshmen get here we have duck orientation training which is 10 days before any other freshmen show up. The purpose of that is really a team building exercise but they learn Drill and Ceremony, how to wear a uniform, how to set up a [dorm] room because our room has a very specific organization to it and all of these are intended to create a sense of attention to detail and discipline,” Col. Weldon said. “Attention to detail, in the military, saves lives situational awareness saves lives so those are traits that you want to practice every day.”
Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets is not only involved in events around the Stephenville area but they also reach out and get involved all across the state and nation.
“Because of COVID-19 we did something kinda innovative, we had a virtual drill meet. So we reached out to JROTC’s all across north central Texas [and] really statewide and we sent them a criteria and said you do this, film it and send it in and we’ll judge it and we’ll pick a winner. International Leadership Academy out of Garland High school actually won the competition,” Col. Weldon said.
Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets have two branches, one for cadets looking to join the military after graduation and one for cadets who are not. Both branches are equally cared for in the corps while also having individual opportunities presented to them.
“The access to scholarship and leadership opportunities is the same for [cadets on both the military and civilian tracks.] The military cadets obviously compete for and get federally funded ROTC scholarships but we have a lot of Tarleton scholarships that we provide to the civilian track cadets. On the civilian track, we work and secure internships for the civilian track cadets,” Col. Weldon said.
“I want to make sure that students on campus know that though our program is designed for students as incoming freshman to join we are open and very interested in freshman that get here [and are interested in joining in the spring of their freshman year,]” Col. Weldon said.
Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets is also open to transfer students with a few limitations.
“Transfer for us is really freshmen and a few sophomores that move in. If they’ve been for example at Weatherford college and they’ve been involved at ROTC there it’s really easy for them to transition into our program. [Once] you get into your sophomore year, because the ROTC has certain requirements, that’s really the very latest that you could probably transfer and be successful. There are always exceptions,” Col. Weldon said. “We [still] require those cadets to go through what we call the duck experience [because they need to] learn how to follow before [they] can learn how to lead.”
Students looking to become a cadet should also know that background experience in a JROTC program is not required.
If you are interested in joining Tarleton’s Corps of Cadets you can go their website for more information:
One of the many ways that you can get involved is by coming out to support the Corps of Cadets at one of their many upcoming events like their monthly retreat ceremonies or the change of command ceremony at the flagpole on April 19, 2021 at 5 p.m.
This also includes the Pointe du Hoc ceremony on Rudder Way exactly three hours and fifteen minuets before the kickoff of every football game.