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From High School
BY DAN GUTTENPLAN
COL. BRENT BARNES IS IN COMMAND of 6th Brigade ROTC, which covers the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico
and the Virgin Islands. He helps to select, develop and commission college students to be officers and leaders of character in the Total Army.
Prior to joining Army ROTC as a freshman at Ball
State University in 1985, he played high school
football in his home state of Indiana.
What sparked your interest in Army RO TC?
This first thing that sparked my interest was
that ROTC is a lot like playing a sport. You’re
directing yourself toward a common goal and
achieving collective excellence. I really connected with that. I played baseball, basketball
and football in high school. I was really in tune
with the team concept, and that’s what’s going
on with ROTC. What kept my interest was the
opportunity provided to me in the field of leadership. I got a lot of individual development in a
What skills did you learn as an athlete
that proved beneficial as a cadet and Army
Effort and preparation were the two biggest
ones. As an athlete, in terms of effort, you give
it your all. Being a cadet is no different. As far
as preparation is concerned, everybody wants
to be a winner. It can’t always happen, but often
the difference between those who achieve excellence and those who don’t is the choices they
make and the choices they don’t make. The idea
of preparation is thinking about where you’re
dedicating your time and what you’re focusing
on. Those are the two things that balance out.
What challenges did you face juggling
the responsibilities of being an athlete
with a STEM major and Army ROTC?
There are so many things you can do your first
time away from home for a long period of time.
I’d gone to football camps, but college was the
first time I was on my own. What I had to do was
prioritize. I had to think about what’s important
to me and make choices that match those
priorities. It sounds easy, but when you’re a
19-year-old, executing that balance is not easy.
I had different things that motivated me. The
thing that motivated me the most was the drive
to not blow the opportunity I had to go to school
post high school. I made up my mind before
I left for my freshman year that I’m not going
to blow my educational opportunity. I tried to
make choices that matched that priority. ROTC
helped bring that together.
Did Army ROTC provide you flexibility
based upon your collegiate demands?
Yes, they did. I studied science, so I had labs.
I found out as long as I maintained my grades,
stayed in above-average physical shape and
stayed out of trouble, they were flexible. I had a
job in college, and they were flexible with that, too.
When did you first consider pursuing an
I was taking classes during my freshman
and sophomore years. In hindsight, they were
checking me out, and I was checking them out.
I got into a Ranger Challenge at the end of my
sophomore year. It’s a nine-person team, and
we competed against other schools from the
Midwest on a regional level. We went to Fort
Knox, Ky., and we competed against everybody
east of the Mississippi River. I saw kids from
other schools compete against each other in
grueling events. I realized then that an Officer
commission was so much bigger than me. And
even greater than that was the opportunity to
serve the greatest nation on Earth. After 48
hours of grueling training, it really turned me on
to it. I figured if they’re going to train me, trust
me to lead others, and let me work out – and
they’re going to pay me to do it – I’m in.
Prior to assuming command of 6th Brigade,
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ARMY ROTC, PLEASE VISIT GOARMY.COM/ROTC/E638
Col. Brent Barnes served as a professor in the
National Security Affairs Department at the
U. S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.