Ben Carroll, Maverick Battalion Cadet Commander

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You’re ranked seventh of 5,579 cadets in the nation. That’s in the top 1 percent.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command does a national Order of Merit list every year, and there’s a big rubric that goes into the ranking. I recognized early on that your GPA holds the most weight. So I have worked really hard to try to achieve a 4.0.

What does a cadet commander do, exactly?

I plan training for cadets and help prepare them for success as lieutenants in the Army.

Your situation is unusual in that you’ve already served in the Army as an enlisted soldier.

Yes, I’ve been in the Army for 10 years now. I’m currently a staff sergeant. I joined when I was 22 after I’d been in college a few years.

How does Army leadership differ from ROTC leadership?

The focus here is academics, so you can’t really count on people to do things on your authority alone. You have to use a lot of influencing techniques to get people on board with your mission and vision. It’s challenging, but that’s good because it exercises those leadership muscles. I have less power as a cadet than I do as a staff sergeant. But if you can lead people without that knee-jerk authority, that’s real power. People will follow you much farther if they know you genuinely care about and respect them.

Why did you decide to join the Army?

It was when 9/11 happened. Not to be too hard on myself, but I was pretty much useless around that time. I was at a community college, studying theater mostly because my friends were doing it. I was failing classes, and in general I just wasn’t taking anything very seriously. A few days after 9/11, my brother and I agreed that if we liked President Bush’s stance on how to respond, we’d go help. That was pretty much it.

So you went from aimless community college student to a high-ranking, high-achieving officer candidate at UT Arlington.

When I was stationed in Germany, it was the first time I was completely on my own. And I started to excel. It was like a snowball of confidence because I went from thinking, “I never finish, I have no follow-through,” to thinking, “I can be good. I am good.” I kind of got addicted to that feeling of achievement. Now that I’m here, it’s all focus. There are things I want to do that I don’t know how to do yet, and I’m here to learn them.

You’ll graduate this May with a business degree. What’s next?

I plan to retire in the military, but I also want to run my own business. My father was an entrepreneur, and that just makes sense to me. I want to control my own destiny while contributing to the economy and society.

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