The Journey to Leadership

PROVO, Utah – Feb 04, 2020 – For possibly the first time ever, both the BYU Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC cadet commanders were female during the Fall 2019 semester. Cathryn Guzzwell and Sydney Clark have had long journeys to becoming effective leaders, and their positions as cadet commanders prepared them for their futures in leadership.

Guzzwell, a sociology major from Denver, Colorado, who graduated in December 2019, was selected for the cadet commander position by Army ROTC leadership and cadre, the staff of the BYU Marriott Military Sciences Department. “Army ROTC leadership select cadets who are gung-ho for the program, dedicated, and who have shown leadership attributes that the Army ROTC leadership and cadre feel can benefit the program,” notes Guzzwell.

As Army ROTC cadet commander, Guzzwell practiced her own leadership skills and ensured that other cadets were growing in their own leadership abilities. “I oversaw different staff positions and made sure the Army ROTC program was able to progress in my own and our program commander’s goals,” says Guzzwell. “I also ensured that the program was progressing and helping to train the incoming freshmen, sophomores, and juniors by preparing them to be future leaders.”

Even before she was selected as cadet commander, Guzzwell was passionate about serving within the BYU Army ROTC. “Before I joined the Army ROTC program, I was in the National Guard,” says Guzzwell. “Because of this previous service, when I joined the program, I felt motivated to strengthen the BYU Army ROTC program. My willingness to give my all to the program helped me as a commander.”

Guzzwell’s experiences within the Army ROTC program have shaped her to become the leader she is today. Before she became cadet commander, Guzzwell was able to practice leadership as a squad leader. “I mentored and worked with one of my cadets to improve his physical abilities,” says Guzzwell. “We worked one-on-one, and together we tried to improve his run times, push-ups, and sit-ups, and he had vast improvement from the beginning to the ending of the semester. To see his progress and hard work, and to know that I could be a part of his improvement, was probably the most rewarding thing that I've experienced in the program.”

Upon her graduation, Guzzwell commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. She feels that what she learned about leadership as cadet commander has prepared her for this future. “When I was selected as cadet commander, my view was, ‘Oh, I'll be in charge of organization. I'll be in charge of accomplishing these tasks,’” says Guzzwell. “But I have learned that leadership is so much more than that. As cadet commander, I learned to be a successful leader by training cadets and being a servant to them. Knowing that leadership is more than being in charge of organization and accomplishing tasks will help me throughout my Army career.”

Like Guzzwell, Clark, an exercise science major from Rapid City, South Dakota, used her leadership skills to serve as the cadet wing commander of Detachment 855, the BYU Air Force ROTC program. At the end of the semester Clark was honorably released from her position as cadet commander since ROTC cadets change jobs within their program each semester. She was the second woman to serve in this position in the last decade.

Every semester, cadets within the Air Force ROTC program can apply or be nominated for positions within the program. Clark was nominated her junior year for Detachment 855’s cadet vice commander. After serving in that position, she took over as cadet wing commander during this past semester. Clark’s job was to ensure training within the Air Force ROTC program was based on the Air Force ROTC’s standards and that cadets met the program’s objectives.

Clark, whose father is an officer in the Air Force, had considered joining the Air Force ROTC throughout high school. “When the scholarship opportunity provided by the Air Force ROTC program opened up, I decided that it was something I at least wanted to try,” says Clark. “I applied for a scholarship from the program, came to BYU my freshman year, and joined the program. I haven’t looked back since. The Air Force ROTC program has been a perfect fit for me.”

Clark notes that part of the reason the program has worked so well for her is because Detachment 855 provided her with a path for her future. “The program helped me dive in to college, figure out what my career goals are, and develop as a leader,” says Clark.

Before joining the Air Force ROTC, high school sports also helped prepare Clark for participation in the program. “All through high school, I did athletics and competed in tennis and track,” notes Clark. “Being in that environment—a competitive environment that focuses on self-improvement and teamwork—helped me because I was able to draw from those experiences because the Air Force ROTC is a competitive environment. However, even though the program is competitive, we’re also all working together.”

Clark will commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force upon her graduation from BYU this April and will have more opportunities to lead in this position. “When I commission and get assigned to base, I'll be put directly into leadership positions where I will be overseeing, managing, and making sure that everything is running smoothly,” says Clark.

Whatever future opportunities wait for Guzzwell and Clark, their leadership experiences within their respective ROTC programs have prepared them to serve as future leaders.

Clark and Guzzwell with Provo Mayer
Sydney Clark (left) and Cathryn Guzzwell (right) stand with Provo City Mayor Michelle Kaufusi during the 2019 Presidential Review ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Sydney Clark.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalia Green