Erin Gats chosen to head Corps of Cadets; Maine student talks about her surprise at being picked and some goals

Left to right; Samuel Delong, Gavin Mitchell, Liam Carroll, Pres. Richard Schneider, Erin Gats, Dan Lupacchino, Victoria Holbert, Alex Breindel, and Anneleise Heni.

Left to right; Samuel Delong, Gavin Mitchell, Liam Carroll, Pres. Richard Schneider, Erin Gats, Dan Lupacchino, Victoria Holbert, Alex Breindel, and Anneleise Heni.                  Amber Reichart photo.

After hours and hours of interviews, three rounds of cuts, and one anxious breakfast ceremony, the cadet colonel for the 2016-2017 school year at Norwich was announced: cadet First Sgt. Erin Gats.

The decision was made public early Friday morning, Feb. 26, at a breakfast with university President Richard Schneider, which the three finalists attended. Gats was joined at that breakfast by her two peers and cadet colonel candidates, cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Liam Carroll and cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Lupacchino.

Gats, 21, is a communications major from Livermore, Maine, who was introduced to Norwich by her older brother. “My brother graduated in 2012,” she said, “and when I saw him graduate and then commission, I was drawn to the challenge.”

Drawn to the challenge of the school. But Gats didn’t begin her education thinking about the challenge of being Commanding Officer (CO) of the Norwich Corps of Cadets. That goal was not set until experiencing the rewards of being a company first sergeant, a position she held this year.

Gats said that she was drawn to apply by the appeal of helping to initiate positive growth, being able to implement new ideas, and effect change in others. These were all things that made Gats set her sights on the highest cadet rank at Norwich.

“I want to apply my ideas and help people grow. I want to help the corps change on an even bigger scale than just one company, which is why I decided to apply for colonel.”

It was a gradual decision to run for the post, she said. Gats went back and forth on the prospect quite a bit. But the chance to help improve the corps and her peers won out in the end, and she dropped her name in the hat.

Gats said her concentration will be to see improvement in two main areas next year: CAMs and PT.

“As the regimental commander, I want to improve the CAM (Corporal Academic Mentor) program so it provides more value, and work on the remedial PT program to ensure all cadets are up to physical standards,” Gats said.

The process to apply began like any job application. A resume and cover letter were submitted first. From those initial applicants, a one-hour board of review in front of a commandant, cadet, and staff member was offered to those who seemed qualified.

Second round cuts narrowed the pool down to five applicants which brought them to a second, hour-long board; this time in front of C/Colonel Breindel, Col. Russell Holden, commandant of cadets, and Gen. Frank Vanecek, vice president for enrollment and student life.

And then, there were three. The third round cuts brought Gats, Carroll, and Lupacchino in for a final hour-long, one-on-one, interview with President Schneider. Then came the day of the announcement.

“It was a long process, so there was a lot of anticipation once we finally got to the breakfast. I was ready to hear who got it,” said Gats.

“When I heard my name I was surprised. Any of the three of us had a good shot at it so it was hard to tell who was going to get it. I think I did have a chance, but I wasn’t sure who, out of the three of us, was going to get it,” she said,

Gats fully anticipates the position of next year to be vastly different than her current job, but she is positive that being a rook first sergeant has given her preparatory experience needed to handle the responsibilities of the regimental CO.

And for the freshman, Gats offered this advice: “If you are not one hundred percent invested in the idea [of being Colonel] now, that’s okay, but do not sell yourself short. Make sure you get involved, keep your grades up, and always be a good person.”

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