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Lieutenant Colonel Eric Westphal is the newest face of APSU’s Army ROTC Program.
LTC. Westphal comes to APSU after holding various other positions through the Army across the United States and the world.
LTC. Westphal said, “I am a product of ROTC.”
“I went there (Northern Arizona University) for sports. I found ROTC. I went to basic and thought ‘this is for me,’ and twenty years later, I decided it was.”
With where Westphal did his training he “had a lot of people come in with lots of experience, and I also went there with people who graduated from West Point, so I thought I was where I needed to be, but I learned very quickly that I was behind potentially from where I should have been.”
His experiences in boot camp and ROTC helped to shape him into the man he is today.
One pivotal moment in his career was the time he spent at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“During that period, one of my soldiers in my platoon expressed to me that I would never understand what it is like to be a soldier. So, during that period, I volunteered and took a command in basic training. They (the soldiers) all come in as privates or just out of high school. That helped me to become a little bit more well-rounded.”
“I have had a lot experience as an officer in different settings. I have got a lot of experience in different environments, and that experience and understanding and seeing how the Army works and the environment they are going to go into after they graduate and commission. I know it well, so I can pass on that information to them.”
“This program is rated as one of the best in the nation.”
“In this program, we have about 114 student cadets, and a lot of them are prior service. My role is to help them transition from their prior role where they were enlisted as a private and most of them were staff sergeants or sergeants first classes. Most of them are wanting to transition to an officer, and I can help them bridge that gap and really understand what it means to be an officer and the differences between that role and those responsibilities and the role that they used to know.”
“For people who are new and have not done this before, who are just like me who do not have any prior experiences, I have a pretty good base of understanding.”
With LTC. Westphal’s cadets, he and his staff understand that “they (his cadets) are always students first, and we respect that. We have that flexibility with our students. They have their own timelines because of their schedules and their degrees they’re working towards. Some of them have part-time jobs and others have full-time jobs and extracurriculars like fraternities, sororities, different clubs on campus, and some of them have families.”
LTC. Westphal also emphasized the importance of communication between him and his cadets.
“One thing I do to start each year is give all our Cadets my personal number. I do this to ensure they all know someone is there to help, but also to level the bubble on communication.”
“A focus or goal of mine is to ensure our Cadets understand this and work to develop systems that ensure communication is always clear. I preach the creation of redundant communications systems to ensure all those who need to know, get the information in a timely manner.”
Communication is key among the Army ROTC program as is the movement to show the Cadets that everyone within the program is human.
According to Westphal, “Often I have seen and experienced how when in this uniform we can appear intimidating to speak with from the perspective of another. So, to combat this I make it a point to share with my Cadets how I have a family, wife, three boys, and two dogs. Seems trivial and maybe not necessary to share, but what I have found is that starting with this type of introduction, others begin to see me as a person and not just an ‘Army Guy.’ This uniform is a mask to a point which hides who we really are; I am a husband and father first. I personally serve to ensure my children have the future they deserve. I am willing to sacrifice everything for that and I am not alone.”