You run track in high school, you’re probably in shape. Physical training should be a piece of cake, right? So thought Naval ROTC scholarship recipient Jill Featherall ’13, when she decided to enroll at Texas A&M and join the Corps of Cadets.
“I knew I wouldn’t succeed without the discipline of the Corps. I knew I couldn’t get myself to wake up at 8am for classes or work out on my own. I did track in high school, so I thought PT would be easy.” She smiles ruefully. “But I came in able to do 12 sit-ups and run a 14-minute mile and a half, neither of which is passing. That hurt.”
Well, you know what they say about Aggies: “No quit in ‘em.” Jill refused to let those early failures stop her. Instead, she buckled down and worked hard, gradually transforming failure into success. Physical success, cranking out 70 sit-ups at a time and running a 9:44 mile and a half; academic success, as an industrial distribution major; and personal success, as this year’s commanding officer (CO) of Company N-1. Success, she says, is what it’s all about.
“Success, for others and for myself,” she says, “is probably what I’m most passionate about. The two go together. If you can help others succeed, you’re succeeding yourself, as a leader.”
Jill’s first taste of leadership came during her sophomore year. As part of the N-1 training cadre she was excited about the opportunity to train the incoming freshmen, psyched about “being that person who has the opportunity to challenge them.” Despite that early enthusiasm, when her junior year rolled around with a chance to apply for CO, she hesitated.
“I’ve made it my goal not to give people a reason to treat me differently,” she explains. “If somebody wants to do something for me, and I think they’re doing it just because I’m female, I’ll ask, ‘Is this actually because I deserve it?’ So when my CO asked me to apply, I said, ‘Are you asking me because you think I can add diversity to the outfit, or do you think I would be good at it?’”
His answer—he wanted her to apply because he knew she would do a good job—was a real confidence booster. It also helped her realize her buddies had always known they could count on her. She simply hadn’t noticed.
As you might expect, assuming command of an outfit some 80 strong can be incredibly demanding—mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s a responsibility that calls for sacrifices. Like giving up an evening with friends, because a fish (freshman) is having family issues, or because you have to get up at oh-dark-thirty to lead a long run. You’re never really off duty. The demands may be tough, but the rewards, says Jill, are immeasurable.
“During FOW (Freshman Orientation Week),” she recalls, “when the training cadre took the oath, promising ‘not to give up on [the freshmen], even when they give up on themselves,’ I got shivers down my spine. The responsibility I have for these underclassmen is unlike any responsibility I will ever have. These kids, fresh out of high school, want to do more with their college experience, and I am their role model. It’s an honor.”
So what happens next?
Well, if by next you mean this next year, Jill has some definite goals as CO. N-1 has a well-established reputation, but there are always things to work on. Last year the outfit won an award for the most off-Quad involvement, with some cadets joining FLOs (Freshman Leadership Organizations) and honor societies, while a few sophomores served as Fish Camp Counselors. Jill would like to grow those cross-campus connections. Academics, she points out, can always improve, and the Corps is making changes to help—like building the new Busbee Leadership Learning Center, for example.
If, on the other hand, next refers to after graduation, Jill will commission in the United States Navy. Her original plan was to apply for the submarine force, but this past July, 26 days aboard the USS Essex, LHD-2 changed all that.
“The Essex is an amphibious assault ship,” she says. “We participated in RIMPAC, the world’s largest maritime exercise, and I had the chance to interact with Naval and Marine officers and enlisted from several countries, such as Australia, Canada, South Korea, Micronesia, and Chile—a mini floating United Nations. It was an incredible experience to see so many countries working together toward a common goal in one place! I now aspire to be a Surface Warfare officer and hope to get assigned to some type of amphibious ship such as an LHD.”
Given her leadership abilities, her drive to succeed, and her never-say-die Aggie spirit, we’re confident Jill can achieve any goal she sets her sites on.
For more information on the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets, please visit http://corps.tamu.edu/.
You’ll find information on Freshman Leadership Organizations (FLOs) at http://flac.tamu.edu/.
Get the lowdown on Fish Camp at http://fishcamp.tamu.edu/.
Kathy DiSanto, Communications Specialist
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
Chris Weachock ‘12