EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series about GMC’s Corps of Cadets — how it impacts the students and the school and the leadership’s vision for the future.
Going on 140 years now, Milledgeville has served as a temporary home for a special segment of college students.
While Georgia Military College students are not mandated to participate in the school’s military aspect, grooming cadets is a big part of the institution’s mission. GMC’s Corps of Cadets was established the same time as the college and now houses up to 250 college cadets each academic year, giving them access to programs, experiences, and training meant to guide them to their chosen futures.
Members of the college’s and corps leadership say the program is experiencing new levels of success thanks to a variety of factors.
“The first one is the institution-level involvement,” said Col. Nelson Kraft, executive director of GMC’s Milledgeville campus. “Both the president and the vice president, Gen. (William) Caldwell and Gen. (Curt) Rauhut, have been decisively engaged in giving us direction, but also giving us the latitude to see it through how we think it should be. That’s been awesome.”
Kraft, who became executive director in late 2018, also pointed to GMC’s alumni involvement and the “All-Star cast” that makes up the corps’ cadre.
Five types of cadets attend college classes and undergo leadership development at GMC, and nearly all of them come with some sort of scholarship funding — the service academy scholars, early commissioning program (ECP), state service scholars, civic leaders, and football athletes. The service academy scholars segment is where the corps is seeing the most growth as GMC just welcomed 45 service academy hopefuls onto campus recently, doubling last year’s total.
“People across the country are seeing the success that we have here at GMC in preparing a young man or woman to go to a service academy, and they’re coming on board,” Kraft said. “They’re coming from all four corners of the United States. We’re excited for what the future holds for this program. All of our cadets are pretty exceptional, but these are some real special kids.”
The program is for cadets who did not get directly accepted into a service academy but instead were referred to a school like GMC for a year of prep before gaining full acceptance. Such students often receive scholarships from their desired academy’s foundation. But GMC also offers an alternative for service academy hopefuls who were not initially accepted to an academy and also are not receiving scholarship monies from one of those foundations. While “self-prep” students do have to pay their own way, they can enter GMC’s service academy prep program and try to get into an academy that way. Like the entire service academy scholars program, the number of GMC self-prep cadets has doubled from last year.
GMC is one of four colleges in the United States where cadets can earn their second lieutenant commission through a two-year program. ECP cadets can compete for Army ROTC scholarships that pretty much cover the entire cost of attending college.
“These are individuals that have come to Georgia Military College and at the end of two years will earn their commission as a second lieutenant in either the National Guard or the Army Reserves,” said Col. Steve Pitt, GMC’s commandant of cadets. “Once they earn their commission, they will go off and finish their two years at another school and complete their bachelor’s degree.”
The next group is the state service scholarship cadets. These men and women are committed to joining the Georgia National Guard or Georgia Air National Guard and attend GMC on a full scholarship paid by the state.
The gist of the civic leaders program is that these cadets attend GMC and participate in the military aspect, although they are under no obligation to the military. They come for the structure but also do various civic engagements throughout their time at GMC.
Members of GMC’s junior college football team also participate in corps obligations in addition to their duties to the football program. Each year the two-year school sends between 15 and 20 athletes on to four-year colleges to continue playing football, according to Pitt.
Throughout the cadets’ tenures at GMC, Pitt and his cadre work to instill leadership qualities that will serve the students down the road. One way is by having them oversee a community-wide service from beginning to end. Cadets plan, develop, and carry out the project as part of their corps requirements. Last year GMC cadets conducted 1,277 hours total of community service.
Another way the school seeks to guide the corps is through its leader engagement series, where individuals come to campus and speak to the cadets about their life tracks, many of which started at GMC.
“A tremendous amount of our alumni are passionate about our Corps of Cadets and GMC, so they come back and talk to the cadets and share their experiences,” said Pitt. “They share how Georgia Military College helped them.”
So what is the leadership’s vision for the future of the corps? Thanks to fairly new partnerships with the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy and ones previously established with the U.S. Military Academy and United States Coast Guard Academy, the school hopes to see the number of service academy scholar cadets grow so GMC can serve as a feeder to all four academies. Pitt also wants to see cadet leadership take a more hands-on role in guiding the corps into the future.
“The vision for me is that the cadets run the corps,” he said. “I want them, with our support, to create the policies, to create the procedures, to create the program, and the things they want to do.”