Student Veteran Takes Lead of Regional ROTC Ranks

November 10, 2010

Student VeteranFor the first time, an ROTC cadet from Saint Leo University has been designated the cadet battalion commander of the Suncoast Battalion, a unit comprised of 250 Army ROTC cadets studying at seven different colleges and universities in the Tampa Bay region.

“I’m responsible for overseeing the training of all the cadets,” explained Cadet Battalion Commander Robert Tester, a senior studying history at Saint Leo University. Over the past three months, that has meant overseeing specific training exercises in weaponry, physical training, and field exercises, for instance. Over the weekend of November 5, 6, 7, Tester was responsible for the oversight of land navigation training held in a nearby state park. That was the culmination of his duties for the fall semester. In the spring, the title and the job are passed along to another cadet.

Although the work was challenging, Tester competed hard for the extra responsibilities. “The first semester I got to Saint Leo and heard about the cadet battalion commander, I wanted to do it,” he recalled, “I’d rather try to be in decision-making positions.” In fact, that is why he “transitioned” from serving as an Army staff sergeant to a college student in 2008 under the Green-to-Gold scholarship program. Tester had decided that he wanted to forge a career in the Army and be promoted, a goal that required a college degree. The Florida native and married father of two enrolled at Saint Leo University and its ROTC program. He will return to the U.S. Army as a commissioned Second Lieutenant when he graduates from Saint Leo in late April.

Cadet Tester’s life experiences and his tours of service in both Iraq and Afghanistan made him a natural role model among the other ROTC cadets at Saint Leo. But to reach the level of cadet battalion commander, he had to compete also with other Suncoast Battalion cadets enrolled at institutions including the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, Eckerd College, and others.

Ultimately, he was ranked first, based on a combination of factors including his academic standing; his performance at summer leadership development and assessment course in Fort Lewis, Washington; recommendations from professors; and his outside volunteer work with his church and local Cub Scout unit. In addition to being ranked first in the Suncoast Battalion, the 28-year-old Tester has been nationally ranked number 125 among 6,000 cadets, said U.S. Army Major Stephen Wills, advisor to Saint Leo University’s ROTC program.

“Robert is the first battalion commander selected from Saint Leo University, and he has done an outstanding job throughout the semester balancing his demanding ROTC duties, school work, and family life,” Wills said. “He has been a great example for others to emulate.”

Tester and his fellow cadets from Saint Leo University will be taking part in the Veterans Day activities at the University Campus on November 11.