Baptist college cadets reach ROTC's top 10
Campbell University's John LeBaube garnered the No. 2 slot while California Baptist University's Kyle Feldman was No. 6.
The top 10 listing represents highest honors from the U.S. Army Cadet Command, which ranks all Army ROTC seniors across the nation. This year the list includes 1,119 Distinguished Military Graduates out of 5,579 cadets.
LeBaube, 29, enlisted in the U.S. Army as an 18-year-old, serving in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009 before deciding to return to school for a college degree. The Brown Summit, N.C., native enrolled at Campbell through the influence of co-workers at Fort Bragg.
"We all motivated each other," LeBaube said. "They were looking to the future, and that got me thinking about what my future would look like."
LeBaube said Campbell's ROTC program has prepared him for whatever comes next and expressed appreciation for his experience at the university.
"This school performs well above what schools this size are expected to do," he said.
LeBaube said his one advantage in being considered for the Cadet Command list was his previous military experience, as many ROTC students are fresh out of high school. He thought he had a good chance to be in the top 10-20 percent but the news of being No. 2 in the nation was surprising.
"I don't know how exactly I reacted, but I was excited and happy about it," LeBaube said.
For CBU's Feldman, the honor also was unexpected.
"I put a lot of hard work into everything I did, and I was glad that it showed in my ranking," Feldman said, "but I never set out with points or ranking in mind, I just did my best in everything I attempted."
A cadet's National Order of Merit standing is determined by a number of criteria, including grade point average, performance in the Army Physical Fitness Test, ROTC training performances and leadership evaluations.
"It's not easy waking up around 5 a.m. for physical training," Feldman said. "It's even harder going to class, doing homework and being involved in extracurricular activities all at the same time. But as a cadet, it's expected. The greatest part is that you have fellow cadets and friends who are right beside you. This builds camaraderie and a shared experience that not everybody gets to experience in college."
The achievement means that, after graduation, both men will get to choose their stations and their branches from one of the Army's 26 branch choices for future second lieutenants.
LeBaube hopes to work as a pilot in the Aeromedical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) program. MEDEVAC pilots and crew provide medical care to those wounded on the battlefield and evacuate them to medical facilities. Feldman will enter the U.S. Army Reserves as a military intelligence officer and one day hopes to transition into psychological operations.
"Psychological operations is a field that requires officers to be culturally aware and provides our military an opportunity to interact with civilians from around the world," Feldman explained. "The goal is to foster and improve relationships between Americans and the rest of the world, shaping how they see us and hopefully allowing a better environment for our soldiers and civilians."
As a senior, Feldman said his final goal in the ROTC program is the development of underclassmen into confident, competent leaders.
"We explain to them that the Army needs quality officers, not quantity," Feldman said. "We push them to be the best because the country deserves the best."
Kathie Chute is director of communications at California Baptist University; Billy Liggett is assistant director for publications at Campbell University.