Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 8, 1996

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

     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

     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

     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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