Setting His Sights on Leadership Lieutenant Colonel Max Padilla takes command of 80-year-old ROTC program Mike Field ------------------------ Staff Writer Get up early enough most weekday mornings and you may see them out running, or doing calisthenics in a field beside the Homewood campus's Newton White Athletic Center. They look as hale, hardy and determined as any group of undergraduates should have a right to look, considering the degree of exertion and the early hour required of them. Yet the demanding physical regimen is only one aspect of a larger commitment that places an equal emphasis on scholastic success. The undergraduate exercises are part of a program in leadership offered by the U.S. Army through its Reserve Officer Training Corps. The corps is now entering its 80th year on the Homewood campus, providing students with financial scholarships of up to $12,000 per year in return for an eight-year commitment to serve in either the regular Army or the Army Reserves. The program currently enrolls about 75 students from Hopkins and several neighboring institutions. Its administration is the responsibility of Lt. Col. Max Padilla Jr., who took over command of the Hopkins ROTC program in July of this year. "The focus of an Army ROTC education is a focus on leadership," Padilla said. "That's what our mission is all about." He recalls a recent article that cited a survey of the 500 top CEOs in the country. Approximately 60 percent of them had served as officers in the military, Padilla said, and of that number, more than half had been officers in the U.S. Army. "I think this gives you an idea of the kind of leadership skills the Army develops." "Leadership can be taught," said Padilla when asked if leaders are born or made. "There are certain characteristics that can enhance the ability to lead, but the perpetual debate is whether leadership training is an art or a science. I think the ability to motivate and influence people is an art, and since the Army is all about people, it's a very important one. In a situation where people depend on you for life and death decisions the art of leadership is a very worthwhile and very rewarding study." Padilla, 42, is familiar with the rigors of military life. The son of a career naval chief petty officer, he intended to follow in his father's footsteps until an adventure with the sea cadets at age 14 left him nearly incapacitated with seasickness. "It was at that juncture that I decided the United States Navy could probably survive without my participation," he said with a smile. Instead, he went to college, then on to a graduate degree program in counseling at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., not far from one of the East Coast's most important naval bases. One day in 1976, he decided to chuck the graduate studies and enlist, choosing the Army, which guaranteed him a spot in its Officer Corps School. "I went in and I never looked back," he said. "The Army has been good to me." Emerging from his training as a second lieutenant specializing in field artillery, Padilla followed the typical path of a career officer, spending time stationed at bases both here and abroad. He went to Germany where, he says, he witnessed military readiness grow "significantly" during the Carter/Reagan defense buildup of the early 1980s. He returned to the States to learn parachuting with the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, then was restationed as an inspector general in Germany. In 1990 he was deployed to Desert Storm as an operations officer for an artillery battalion with the 2nd Armored Cavalry. His unit was sent into action to seek out units of Iraq's Republican Guard. One day a cavalry troop (which consisted of 125 soldiers) that Padilla's unit was supporting unexpectedly ran across a brigade (consisting of approximately 3,000 soldiers) of Republican Guards. The resulting two-hour pitched battle--known in the textbooks as the Battle of 73 Easting--ended in a decisive American victory. Padilla's participation in Desert Storm earned him the Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat. Returning to the States, Padilla attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, then taught leadership and management skills at the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, Ala., eventually being appointed director of joint warfare studies. "I really like teaching and the academic arena," he said of his move from soldier to instructor. "When I had the opportunity to come to Hopkins I was eager to work with the cadets. I view it as a chance to mold them into future leaders both within and outside the Army." Hopkins' ROTC program is one of the oldest in the nation, having been initiated in 1916, the same year Congress first authorized the corps in response to the desperate need for trained officers during World War I. But according to Padilla, the tradition goes back even further, to 1898, when a group of students formed a company of volunteers during the Spanish American War. "We like to trace our roots back to that event," he said. For nearly a century Hopkins students have been drilling, training and serving in the armed forces through programs on the Homewood campus, one of 334 ROTC host programs nationwide. Much has changed in the Army since Padilla first enlisted 19 years ago. At that time, less than five years after the Vietnam war, ROTC programs often met with hostile reactions on campus, and the military in general suffered from a poor public image. During the Reagan years considerable amounts of money were spent enlarging and upgrading the country's arsenal. By 1988, the standing Army was more than 900,000 strong. "The Army has changed and continues to change dramatically," Padilla said. "We are much more high tech than previously. The digital battlefield has become a reality. At the same time, the Army is much smaller. By the end of 1996 we'll have roughly 495,000 personnel in uniform, even less if some in Congress have their way." Another significant change concerns gays in the military. During the Reagan years ROTC candidates were asked if they were homosexual and disqualified from military service if they answered affirmatively. That practice was changed under the Clinton administration to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which continues to allow the military to discharge individuals on the basis of sexual conduct, but forbids the services from inquiring or investigating sexual preference at the time of enlistment. "We no longer ask at the time of enrollment," said Padilla simply. Although the Army is changing, the ROTC program continues to be a vital source of new officers, providing fully 70 percent of the service's needs. "There are still opportunities in today's Army," Padilla said. "We are especially anxious to have enrollees from Hopkins and other top-rated schools. The Army recognizes that the quality of its officers is vital to the quality of its performance." Although down somewhat from the Reagan-era high of nearly 100 cadets, the program continues to attract undergraduate students--primarily from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences- -willing to commit eight years to the Army in exchange for partial scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 per year. Padilla said recruiting on the Hopkins campus is a bit more difficult than at many other schools. "The students here are so focused," he said. "Most of them seem to have a pretty clear idea of where they're going and how they want to get there, and it's consequently difficult to convince them the Army may be the path they should take." Yet the Army's Hopkins ROTC program continues to attract men and women drawn to the promise of leadership. "This is a solid program with some outstanding students," Padilla said. "We are very pleased to be a part of university life."
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