In a matter of seconds after the president announced the regimental commander for next year at a private luncheon last Friday, the campus was abuzz. From Facebook posts and text messages, word of Ryan Sutherland’s success was out.
Within the first 24 hours, the only people Sutherland had to tell were his mother and girlfriend. Hundreds of other people just knew. He hadn’t had a second to himself and already had peers approaching him to see about landing a cadet leadership position for the next year.
For the past several weeks, members of the junior class have been going through a series of interviews, competing for the position of regimental commander for Norwich University’s Corps of Cadets. The race finally came to an end on Friday, Feb. 15 as President Richard Schneider announced Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan Sutherland to fill the shoes of Dusty Shimkus in the 2013-2014 academic year.
Sutherland is 20-year-old junior from Palmyra, Pa. majoring in computer security information assurance (CSIA). He is currently 3rd Battalion’s cadet command sergeant major, in charge of the training for half of the rook class. Rumor has it, “it’s been more than a decade or so” since a command sergeant major made colonel, he said.
Sutherland made it through the three-step board process and shook Schneider’s hand at the luncheon on Friday where he was congratulated on being selected. “I couldn’t help but keep smiling,” Sutherland said, excited for this leadership opportunity.
The cadet colonel position is the highest cadet position in the corps of cadets. Sutherland will be responsible for leading the entire regiment of approximately 1,400 cadets.
For the first time ever, the cadets interested in applying for the colonel position were required to submit a cover letter and resume in addition to their rank application to the commandant of cadets, Col. Holden. After doing so, the students had a “board,” which is an interview with a member of the commandant staff, a faculty member, and a current senior officer. If he or she made it through the first board, the second interview was with Holden and Shimkus. At that point, Holden recommended five names to the president and those students had an hour-long discussion with Schneider, who made the ultimate decision.
“The hardest board was my last board with the president just because it was so different,” Sutherland said. “It was more discussion based rather than an interview style.” Side-by-side with Sutherland as he embarked on the president’s board were cadets George Bausch, Arielle Eaton, Nate Edmondson, and Mitch Przybocki.
Once Sutherland decided he wanted to apply for the position, he spent a lot of time talking to his peers about their thoughts. “Over winter break I began to develop my own thoughts or theories about where the corps is going and where it should be going,” he said.
Although the board process has a large influence on the student selected for colonel, Sutherland’s involvement in the university as a whole and his high academic standing make this position a good fit for him.
“If you’re going to be here at Norwich, you need to be involved,” Sutherland said. “I just took advantage of as many leadership opportunities as I could.” As a freshman, Sutherland became involved with the Student Government Association (SGA), Mountain Cold Weather (MCW), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the corps honor committee, and within the naval department. To this day, Sutherland is involved with many of those same activities.
From the beginning of his Norwich career, he said, “I tried to diversify a little bit and focused on my academics quite a lot because they are especially important to me.”
Throughout his sophomore year, Sutherland worked as a corporal guidon bearer for a freshman cadet training company. He was also a corporal academic mentor (CAM), and a physical training instructor (PTI). “I got involved in as much as I could get my hands on,” Sutherland explained.
As a current junior, he serves as a command sergeant major. Although this wasn’t his first choice for a leadership position, he is very glad that he got it. “It’s given me a lot of opportunities to work with both rooks and my peers and to see the corps from a different perspective,” he said.
Looking forward to his position as cadet colonel, he plans to carry on the policy of getting back to the basics and fundamentals of being a cadet, which has been established this year by Shimkus. “Leadership wise, I rely a lot on my subordinates for input,” Sutherland explained. “Ultimately, I view the regimental commander position as the facilitator for the corps. I want it to be my peers coming together to shape the corps.
Acting as the facilitator between the corps of cadets and commandant, Sutherland realizes there needs to be a balance between the two. “The corps can’t have everything that it wants, but neither can the commandants,” he said. In order to find this balance, he plans to work closely with Holden. “I won’t be a puppet to ‘Jackman’,” he assured, “It is our corps which is student-leader ran, just like it’s supposed to be.”
In just a few months, the Unit Manning Report (UMR) will be released that will show all cadet leaders what positions they have earned for next year. “As soon as the UMR comes out for next year, I want to get together with next year’s battalion and company commanders and current leaders and hear their thoughts and start to formulate their plans,” Sutherland said. He plans to work with the future leaders this semester so that they can use summer to edit and revise their plans and hit the ground running in August.
Sutherland hopes that while in command he is able to open all lines of communication so that the corps understands the purpose behind every professional decision made. He also hopes to help make the cadet experience at Norwich a four-year leadership program. He plans to implement leadership development beyond the rook year.
One challenge he knows the corps will face next year is with the honor committee. “I think everyone’s aware right now to the changes with the honor committee and whether you feel strongly for or against that is beside the point, but it is something the corps is going to have to deal with next year. It’s going to be a new system and it’s going to be our job to really affect that,” he stated.
As for Sutherland’s future plans, he is heading down to Quantico, Va. for Officer Candidate School on May 28 for the Marine Corps. He is expected to graduate in the beginning of July where he will work back home as a lifeguard to a community pool. At the end of July, his sister will return from Afghanistan and he and his family hope to have a week vacation away to enjoy some time together by the beach. In early August, he will report back for command week.
After graduation, Sutherland will commission with the United States Marine Corps. He has a flight contract with them so shortly after he graduates, he will find himself back to Quanitco for The Basic School (TBS) for six months. Then it will be on to Pensacola, Fla. for flight training.
“From there, I will be stationed somewhere in the world,” he said. “I think I would like to make it a career, but it’s too soon to decide now until I know what that really means.” If he were to get out of the military, he hopes to use his CSIA major to work in an intelligence field. Sutherland also looks forward to having a family later down the road.
Outside of the dedicated life that he leads surrounded by corps, ROTC, and academic responsibilities, Sutherland loves to be outside. “I would rather spend my time outside, than behind my desk,” he said. “At home I spend a lot of time hunting, fishing, and hiking with my younger brother and friends.”
Sutherland thinks of himself as a nice, relaxed guy, but at the same time he’s dedicated and focused. “I love the Corps of Cadets,” he said. “And I love Norwich…most days.”