More than 250 of the top Army ROTC cadets representing colleges and universities across the nation gathered for the 2019 George C. Marshall Leadership Seminar Feb. 10-13 at the Lewis and Clark Center.

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

More than 250 of the top Army ROTC cadets representing colleges and universities across the nation gathered for the 2019 George C. Marshall Leadership Seminar Feb. 10-13 at the Lewis and Clark Center.

Marshall was considered one of the greatest American statesmen of the 20th century. Throughout his career, Marshall assisted with international affairs from 1939 to 1951, served as Army chief of staff from 1939 to 1945 and was named general of the Army on Dec. 16, 1944. After retiring from the Army in 1945, Marshall focused his efforts on the cause of international peace and security, which eventually earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his attempts to seek peace for the world through cooperation and understanding among nations.

“We bring in the highest ranked cadets from across Army ROTC, and we also bring in some of the highest ranked cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point to really recognize the way that they’ve excelled in their programs and recognize the fact that they’re very soon going to be junior leaders in the Army,” said Maj. Gen. John Evans, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command. “We’re trying to broaden them a little bit, get something outside of the normal curriculum.”

Cadet Courtney Linnemeier, representing Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., said she was honored to be chosen for the seminar.

“Being able to interact with all of these cadets that are at the top of their class is a really cool experience,” Linnemeier said. “Coming into it, I am hoping to learn a lot more about the different kinds of leadership aspects and the way the Army is changing.”

Throughout the event, cadets heard from guest speakers and participated in question-and answer panels and small group discussions with Army leaders, while focusing on multi-domain operations.

“The challenge with ROTC cadets and West Point cadets is at the tactical level, which is where they are going to enter the Army, there’s not as much applicability for multi-domain operations. That tends to be a higher level operational- to strategic-warfare facet,” Evans said. “So, what we’re trying to do is marry up or nest what goes on at the tactical level with what will be going on at the operational level above them so they better understand the battlefield that they’re going to be fighting on.

“We’re also trying to encourage them to think about competition short of warfare, which is the world they’re going to exist in,” he said. “Their Army will be much more different than the Army that I grew up in, in that regard. We’re constantly going to be competing in space against great powers, and they’ve got to decide what it is they can do to advance our national objectives as young officers in space.”

To get the cadets thinking about this idea from the get go, they were addressed by Dr. Peter Singer, a strategist, author and senior fellow at New America, a “think tank.”

Singer spoke with them about the ideas of growing technology trends, which will affect military warfare in the future.

“We’re talking about technology that changes the rules of the game,” Singer said. “We’re talking about technology that essentially was science fiction a generation back and is now real and resets the table.”

Technology that has changed the game includes robotics; the internet, specifically the use of social media and other software; energy sources; and human performance modification technologies, Singer said.

“None of these technologies are inherently military or inherently civilian,” he said. “The game-changing technologies are playing out in both spaces. That is very different than in the past.”

Singer said there were several other issues with the new changes in the technology that should be noted, but that the changes need to be embraced.

“Nations, organizations, individuals that choose not to embrace this change and choose not to stand formally and choose not to even adjust because of it, they are making a choice,” he said. “By their inaction, they will be choosing to lose the future.”

Cadet Coddrick Griffin, representing Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Fla., said Singer’s remarks were deep.

“It is technology on a whole other level that I never thought about,” Coddrick said. “It is things like the social media weaponization. It is stuff that we definitely take for granted because it is really dangerous when it comes to tagging and others knowing where your location is at. You really don’t know how effective and how influential it can be because everybody that you’re with, whether it is on purpose or not, it can really work against you.”

Throughout the seminar, cadets were also able to ask questions of three different panels who represented three different stages in a military career — junior officers, senior enlisted leadership and chain of command leadership.

Cadet Mary Ninneman, representing the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind., said the junior officers’ panel was the most helpful.

“Being able to hear from people that are right in our position a few years beforehand, and being able to better understand what my role and goals will be as a future second lieutenant was an incredible opportunity,” Ninneman said.

Throughout the junior officers’ panel, cadets asked the panelists about the common pitfalls of new lieutenants, what they should expect as intelligence officers, preconceived notions panelists had that were incorrect and the lessons learned from them, how to build team cohesion outside of regular military training, failures panelists have experienced and the lessons learned from them, how to build relationships with their officers in the National Guard and Reserve, current warfare threats they should expect, and characteristics and attributes a second lieutenant needs to have.

“Forums like this are important because we’ve got cadets from across all of our programs, 274 programs across Army ROTC and West Point,” Evans said. “It allows them to come together, some perhaps for the first time, so that they can discuss the things that are different in the part of our country that they come from, and I think those cultural influences, that diversity, is very, very important as we look at being more inclusive in the way we address our leaders in the future.”