He wore a suit today. Not the cadet uniform with the rank and company patch that once showed everyone he was responsible for training freshman.
Today, he was back on campus for the first time since the case shut. Today was his hearing with the Army department.
“The push-ups went too far and one thing led to another,” the former platoon sergeant said. “I got physical with him.”
Nicholas Shepherd had a clean record at NU like the majority of Norwich cadet leaders do when they earn the job – prior to committing “stupid mistakes” during their time as cadre that result in removal from their leadership positions. For Shepherd, the result was academic suspension for a semester and a possible so-long to his four-year Army contract.
There has been an increased suspicion in the Corps of Cadets that cadre are being accused and found guilty of battery or hazing this year more than in years past. University officials say it is because leaders are reporting what they deem as inappropriate behavior more-so than before. Two student cases, one involving battery and the other dealing with hazing, propose otherwise.
“Any time a cadet violates the rules and regs, it’s disappointing,” said Commandant of Cadets Colonel Russ Holden. “It’s especially disappointing if it involves emotional abuse or physical abuse because it’s not consistent with our guiding values. It’s not acceptable in the military; it’s not acceptable in education. We just have to be vigilant and make sure it doesn’t occur, and if it does occur we have to report it,” he said.
“I was charged with battery,” said Shepherd, a 20 year-old junior studies of war and peace major from Chittering Pointe, Maine. He was turned in for battery in the fall semester.
“It’s been going on at Norwich forever and whether you know it’s right or wrong it comes up in the back of your head and sometimes that overlooks your greater instinct to not do it and you find yourself slipping for a second,” he said.
Each year cadre have gotten away with such instances behind closed doors and because it happened to them when they were freshman, they carelessly pay it forward, Shepherd said.
“I wouldn’t expect we’d have to tell someone don’t beat someone, but it does happen in society. There are abusive parents and that creates a cycle of abuse so we have to work to break that cycle,” Holden said.
The cycle occurring at Norwich seems to be caused by the glorified image cadets have of the old corps, said cadet Col. Dusty Shimkus, a 22-year old senior history major from Collinsville, Ill.
“Rookdom is simple. It’s supposed to be the first introduction to military discipline and courtesies. When they (cadre) act in an unprofessional way it prolongs that culture,” said Shimkus. Cadre participate in a week-long training before rook week called Leaders Week where they are instructed on how to successfully fulfill their job. They also have a two-week opportunity their sophomore year to shadow cadre with their freshman platoons. Shimkus suggested that maybe this year cadre were told a lot of what not to do, but not much what to do.
“Next year we’re reaching out to the ROTC’s, we’ve got a new assistant commandant and he’s got a lot of new ideas,” said Paul Putney, 3rd battalion’s command sergeant major and the fall semester’s acting assistant commandant. Lt. Col Geoffrey Farrell, the new assistance commandant, attended West Point. “We’re looking at what other colleges are doing, but we’re not drastically changing things,” Putney said.
Ian L’Heureux, a 21-year old junior political science major from Sanford, Maine, was removed from his position as a freshman staff sergeant after he was investigated for choking one of his freshmen by wrapping the tube from the rook’s camelback around his neck in the hallway during rook week. Today, he still claims the story is “completely fictional.”
“The commandants are good at their job. They get a report, they investigate it. If they want to find something, they’re going to find it,” said Shepherd.
“They had to investigate, so they decided there wasn’t any information enough to support (the accusation) and closed it. One week later my CO comes into my room and tells me that I’m being relieved of duty temporarily until another investigation takes place,” said L’Heureux.
When university officials hear word of a situation where someone could be harmful to a training environment they temporarily remove the accused cadet from their position.
This is known as an administrative separation, said Putney. If university officials think that anyone’s at harm they make the accused “simply stand on the sidelines,” he said. “They won’t be in charge of anybody for the duration of the investigation.”
After a second investigation for L’Heureux, he was officially removed from his job in December.
“We put cadre in this position now where they’re easy victims for hazing allegations. We put them out there, we tell them go do the job, but then we don’t back them up in situations like this where it’s clear that nothing actually happened,” he said.
Friends of cadre and cadre that get caught up in these unfortunate incidents oftentimes claim “Jackman,” the building where some university officials’ offices are located, does not trust the cadre and fear lawsuits, according to L’Heureux.
“I trust the cadre. I take my responsibility to my leaders very seriously. I take my responsibility to my recruits very seriously. But at the end of the day, I gotta go to sleep at night,” said 4th battalion’s assistant commandant, Lt. Col. Mark Hagenlocher. “And if I don’t feel comfortable that people are going to do the right thing at the end of the day, you don’t sleep. Leaders do a wonderful job, we ask an awful lot of them and they deliver. Do some of them make mistakes? Yes, but people make mistakes all the time. It’s do they learn from it,” he said.
“You can be taken out of your leadership for a lot of reasons, but nine times out of 10 it’s protection for everybody. It’s not something you do to just to do. You’re protecting the student leader, you’re protecting the student. You’re protecting everybody’s parents. And nobody’s happy about it,” said Hagenlocher.
Although there are many incidents that have removed cadre from their positions this academic year, it did not change one sophomore’s decision to go out for a cadre slot next semester. But she did see the risk in getting the job.
“It makes me nervous that anything can happen. I can potentially get fired and lose my contract, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take,” said Kelse Hancock, a 19-year old sophomore international studies major from Chesapeake Beach, Md.
Shepherd’s advice to sophomores who may fear this risk of being cadre is “hands down, do it.”
“Just be careful. Don’t be so afraid of what’s going to happen that you just completely avoid your freshman. Be careful and be smart. If your superiors tell you not to do something, don’t do it, if they tell you to do something, do it,” he said.
In the Corps of Cadets, being cadre is a privilege admired by Norwich peers. It is an opportunity to develop leadership skills by experiencing the tradition of rookdom through the eyes of a junior cadet. It’s one of the most unique experiences, Shimkus explained.
“When you go on active duty, you should be able to apply the lessons learned at Norwich and transfer (them) over to active duty,” he said.
Hancock wants the cadre experience for that exact reason. “I’m going to be leading Marines in a couple of years. If I could have the experience leading freshman at NU, and I can do it well, then I know that I have a good chance of leading Marines well in a couple of years.”
To prevent these instances from continuing to happen, cadet leaders as well as freshman need to follow the rules and regulations handbook. “Nobody should be afraid of making mistakes. This school is a leadership lab and you are supposed to try to be a leader and along that path you make mistakes. That’s going to happen,” Putney said.