Leaders of Character
Three members of the 2018-2019 Corps of Cadets staff describe their personal journeys
By Kathryn Whitlock @KathrynWhitloc8
Adam Buckley: Corps Commander
Prior to attending Texas A&M, political science and Russian senior Adam Buckley had little knowledge of what being an Aggie entailed, yet this did not hold him back from becoming the 2018-2019 Corps commander.
“Truthfully, I had a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship and I was from Houston, so A&M and the Corps just made sense,” Buckley said. “I had no family or friends that had joined the Corps before me, so I knew almost nothing about what to expect.”
Since 2015, Buckley has been intertwined with the Corps. From Squadron 4 to Corps commander, Buckley said he seized any opportunity to interact with cadets from all across the Quad.
“It’s truly not something I set out for,” Buckley said. “I simply believed that, since the Corps of Cadets is a leadership organization, I had to try and develop myself with as much leadership experience as possible while I have the chance. Once I was selected as Corps sergeant major and Corps commander, I have just tried to put all my effort into improving the lives and experiences of every cadet.”
As Corps commander, Buckley said the gravity of his duties are acute, as he is responsible for the accomplishments and failures of the Corps.
“I am the highest ranking cadet,” Buckley said. “I manage a group of 10 major unit commanders with a chief of staff and a deputy Corps commander, I craft policy for the Corps moving forward and I interface regularly with the commandant and his assistant commandants to speak for cadets.”
Buckley said the Corps has taught him many valuable attributes, including resilience, hard work and a profound sense of character. After his May graduation, Buckley will commission into the United States Marine Corps with an aviation contract.
“The Corps does a phenomenal job of providing a person with opportunities to grapple with difficult tasks and learn from the missteps one makes along the way,” Buckley said. “I truly believe that the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M offers an unparalleled leadership experience for young men and women from around the world, and its greatest strength is its ability to serve as a laboratory in which people can make mistakes, grow from them and craft themselves into the leaders of a generation.”
Buckley said the Corps has shaped who he is today. Additionally, the Corps taught him new ways to interact with people and has shown him how to care about people even while making difficult decisions.
“It’s shown me thousands of different ways to lead and to follow through the cadets that I’ve met through the years,” Buckley said. “Its supported me through the most difficult times of my life, and it’s given me the opportunity to lead a group of people that I truly respect and admire.”
Ashley Ralph: Corps Chief of Staff
Adding to a family legacy, agricultural economics senior and Corps Chief of Staff Ashley Ralph, began her journey with the Corps at a young age as her grandfather passed on his appreciation of the organization to her.
“Part of me wanting big things in the Corps in the first place was my great grandfather because he was the Corps commander in 1923, and my grandfather was an outfit commander,” Ralph said. “When I was growing up, my grandfather always brought me to A&M and brought me to football games. As a kid, I was only exposed to the Corps at A&M.”
When Ralph was a freshman, she joined an Army outfit, Company 1, before becoming sergeant major as a junior. Now as chief of staff, Ralph said her duties have been amplified.
“I’m the third highest ranking member of the Corps, but my primary job is to manage Corps staff and all of the chains in the Corps,” Ralph said. “We function to create policy and enforce it throughout the Corps. We decide on a vision and decide on policies that we want to implement, and I work with Corps staff so that those become a reality.”
According to Ralph, becoming chief of staff was not on her to-do list.
“As a junior, I was anticipating becoming major unit commander; I was not expecting to be chief of staff, and I actually didn’t want this position,” Ralph said. “After I got it, I was a little shocked, and after sitting back and taking it in for a little bit, I realized that it was the best position in the Corps for me. It is my favorite position in the Corps that I didn’t know that I wanted.”
Surpassing any notion of a carefree job, chief of staff is a significant role that requires constant dedication, patience and humility, Ralph said.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to care who gets the credit for things,” Ralph said. “My job is a lot of behind-the-scenes work and day-to-day responsibilities and operations. At the end of the day, the Corps staff is what makes the entire Corps function, so it’s cool to see on a day-to-day basis all of the work that my staff puts in actually come to fruition.”
With roughly 2,500 cadets in the Corps, Ralph said it is rewarding to work through a variety of circumstances, but it can be hard to relay and remind the cadets of her good intentions.
“I am a people person; I like people to like me, and I think that sometimes in the Corps and especially in leadership, people aren’t always going to like you,” Ralph said. “At the end of the day, I hope everyone in the Corps understands that I do have their best interest at heart, and I absolutely love and cherish every single person in the Corps.”
Ennis Rios: Deputy Corps Commander
Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, geographic information systems senior Ennis Rios transferred to A&M from Austin Community College in spring 2017, taking the first step toward his role as deputy corps commander.
“Before I could even apply to Texas A&M, I had no credentials to get me into a proper university,” Rios said. “I dropped out of high school when I was 18. I didn’t have any SAT scores or ACT scores. I had nothing. I did the military and I did it well, but when I got out, it didn’t get me into college. So I had to take about a year and a half of junior college classes when I got out of the Navy.”
Marking the start of his junior year, Rios joined the Ross Volunteers, a special unit within the Corps. As he transitioned to his senior year, Rios said he had the choice of applying to become delta company’s commanding officer but instead applied for a staff position.
“I was inspired to do something more, to have a bigger impact and a broader reach,” Rios said. “I had my eye set on deputy Corps commander because I think it’s important that the Corps at large is led by someone who looks like them, feels like them, is the same age as them. Since I’m an older, nontraditional student, deputy Corps commander — the right-hand-man to the Corps commander — felt like a good fit. I could give an outside perspective from someone that hasn’t been in the Corps for the full four years.”
Rios said that although his duties are stated within a short paragraph on paper, creative initiative is allowed. With the lack of explicit guidelines, Rios said he is able to use his own discretion when executing his job.
“I’ve done a lot to bridge the gap that exists between the traditional Corps and the band,” Rios said. “We’re all the same Corps. I’ve tried to step over those lines and do some liaison stuff. If there’s a relationship to be built or maintained with the Corps, then I take that responsibility.”
With the Corps being a deeply rooted tradition at A&M, Rios said there is a lot to be proud of, but a lot that can still be improved.
“The Corps has always adapted to the times, allowing women and minorities, integrating outfits, facing the challenges of mental health,” Rios said. “We still have a long way to go, and we need leaders that are unafraid of going against the grain to lead us into the future. I’ve tried to do that with regard to the way we conduct training of junior classes, but there are miles to go in that and other areas. To the future cadets: Be fearless. Be the change.”