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Leaders Run in the Family

February 1, 2020

Behind every great CAP cadet are great parents! On Tuesday evening, January 28, 2020, Lt Colonel Russell McGee (Retired), who is the father of our Cadet Commander, proved this to be true. Lt Colonel McGee joined his son, C/Capt Matthew McGee, and our cadets for an evening of inspirational insight into what his life has been like as an officer in the Marine Corps for 22 years, and as a college professor here in College Station at Texas A&M University. Lt Colonel McGee is a professional lecturer, and provided us with a lecture on the subjects of leadership and excellence.

Lt Colonel McGee has led an exceptional life. Part of his belief system is the responsibility for passing on the knowledge and wisdom he has acquired during his own lifetime in pursuit of excellence. In short, excellence is a choice. (Remember, excellence is one of the core values of CAP.)

Lt Colonel McGee’s first career was as an officer in the US Marine Corps. Marines have always had a reputation for being the toughest and bravest warriors serving our country in times of war; he served as a cobra helicopter pilot and saw combat operations in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.

While standing before our cadets, Lt Colonel McGee appeared in his Marine uniform with a chest filled with medals and ribbons, an impressive and visible reflection of everything he believes in: honor, duty, truth, respect, service, endurance, perseverance and courage. His beliefs and behavior show that he follows the tradition of being an officer and a gentleman. His military bearing and professional attitude commanded the rapt attention of everyone present.

His lecture focused on what qualities make a great leader. His presentation was shown on slides, and is entitled “A Few Lessons Learned During a Career in the Marines”. In fact, Lt Colonel McGee encouraged our cadets to keep a small notebook with them at all times, to record their observations of moments within their own lives to be learned from, and of anything that should be repeated or avoided.

In writings called Meditations, a stoic philosopher and great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius captured his thoughts and observations about life. Lt Colonel McGee has done much the same. McGee’s wisdom is based on decades of experience gained over a lifetime of impressive achievements in several military occupational specialties and civilian pursuits, such as earning a master’s degree in agricultural engineering.

Lt Colonel McGee encouraged cadets to become the very best version of themselves, through a constant daily effort to excel in every area of their lives. With each slide, he discussed areas of professional skills and professional development, as well as personal growth.

For the benefit of those cadets who were unable to attend the meeting, below are paraphrased (in no particular order) some of the points of wisdom he discussed:

-Set high standards for yourself, and use self-discipline in everything you do. Be determined to work hard at every task. This shows a commitment to excellence.

-Do your best at all times, in everything you do, regardless of any attention or reward you may or may not receive for what you have done.

-Be persistent, and don’t give up easily. Keep trying, until you get it right. Do it right the first time, and do it well.

-Be early, to be on time. It is a bad habit and stressful, trying to arrive at the precise time. Get there early and relax! Promptness is an indicator of dependability.

-Acknowledge your mistakes to your superior immediately, without making excuses or blaming anyone else (and especially not a subordinate).

-Be a problem solver. If you identify a problem, rather than simply reporting it, be sure to propose a solution. Then, be prepared to be the one who does the work.

-Actions have consequences. Accept the consequences of your decisions and actions. This may require courage, if you must go against the beliefs of others. Some actions and consequences can be controlled. You should determine which you can control, then do your best to do so.

-You will sometimes fall short of your own hopes and expectations. Forgive yourself and move on, not wallowing in self-pity or defeat.

-Learn to be self-sufficient, only then can you teach others to be self-sufficient.

-Don’t neglect any of the areas of your life (body, mind, or spirit). Never stop reading. Always be curious--and have a wide-range of interests. Read both non-fiction and fiction--one continues your self-education, and the other is a stress-reliever by simply entertaining.

-When speaking, use no profanity. The tongue is a window to the soul. Profanity indicates a lack of intellect and leadership ability.

-“Engage brain before mouth!” or “Think before you speak!” Thoughtful speech indicates both good judgment and maturity.

-Be someone who doesn’t have to be told twice to do something. Be a “self-starter”. Work without the need for supervision. Getting the job done is an indication of dependability and reliability.

-Regular physical exercise if vital to your well-being. It helps with stress management and performance improvement. Problem-solving, fresh ideas may be formed while exercising. Self-discipline in physical exercise helps achieve a healthy body and mind.

-Training is important. Repetition makes your response second nature. Avoid negative training. Train for the probable, educate for the unexpected.

In summary, effective leadership is a result of common sense and courtesy. A leader must prioritize. A leader must also be resourceful, flexible, and professional. A good leader learns to empower those under his command, and not micro-manage. A good leader also gives credit where it is due, and does not claim all of the glory when a job is well done. However, when a job is not well done, the ultimate responsibility rests on the leader’s shoulders.

Yes. Excellence is important,and so is being well-balanced. This is a concept stressed by CAP in its program “Five Pillars of Wellness and Resilience”, which are Mind, Body, Relationship, Spirit and Family. Cadets who fail to understand the importance of having a healthy, well-rounded life may face challenges that seem insurmountable.

At some point in their life, every person will fail miserably. It is critical to keep a proper perspective when such times happen. There have been tragic consequences when cadets perceived a set-back as signifying a complete and unforgivable failure...of themselves. Forgive yourself and move on!

Throughout his inspiring lecture, Lt Colonel McGee proposed ways to obtain the kind of well-balanced lifestyle that will make it possible for someone to recover from terrible disappointments in life, whether they are disappointments in themselves or in circumstances. He stressed that, in order to be a good leader and lead a successful life, it is very important for a person to pursue excellence in a wide-range of interests.

The Faculty Directory of Texas A&M University shows that Lt Colonel McGee is the Director of the Agricultural Studies Undergraduate Program. His students call him “Colonel McGee” to honor his military service and highlight the fact that TAMU has a veteran on the faculty. He lectures on military leadership to the Naval Reserve classes on campus.

As an example of his wide-ranging interests, in his spare time, he is the President of the Texas Flying Club at Coulter Field, as a flight instructor in Cessna and Piper aircraft. He raises cattle and horses on his small farm, and teaches high school level bible study at his church. He and his beautiful, loving family attend many CAP events.

Our Cadet Commander, C/Captain Matthew McGee must have heard his father’s “words of wisdom” many times over the years. Lt Colonel McGee is obviously a devoted father. If only all earthly fathers deserved the adoration and respect that shone in the eyes of his son at CAP during the class on excellence and leadership! Now, how is that for living an excellent, successful, and well-rounded life? Thank you, Colonel McGee!

For More Information:

1st Lt Laura Simpson, CAP
TX-041 Public Affairs

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