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CAST 50×50: John Cross, Military Science

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The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) at Illinois State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! This series, CAST 50×50, will to highlight 50 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and organizations within CAST that make the college special. These notable people will tell you that every day in CAST is a great day to be a Redbird!

Today, we highlight LTC John Cross. We thank him for his service to our country and incredible work he does for our military science program here at Illinois State University.

Tell us about your position within CAST.

I am the chair of the Department of Military Science and the professor of military science (PMS) for Illinois State’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program, the Redbird Battalion. As the PMS, I am the Army’s senior representative at Illinois State and am responsible for ensuring the cadets of the Redbird Battalion are trained to become leaders of character and second lieutenants in the United States Army.

Could you tell us about your path to Illinois State?

During my time in command of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, I realized that I truly enjoyed the aspect of my profession called leader development. In pursuing this passion following my command, I moved to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to help develop the cadets there to become Army officers. I was blessed with the opportunity to serve two years with the Corps of Cadets and another two years commanding the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS). During my command of USMAPS, I decided that I wanted to continue working with cadets, but also get closer to my extended family in the Midwest.

To pursue this, I put my name in for selection as a professor of military science with a preference to serve at a university in the Midwest.  When the Army released the results, they had selected me as an alternate, meaning that I didn’t come out as a “first round draft choice.” Despite this, I started working with Cadet Command on possible assignments in fall 2015. About this same time, LTC Bender, the former PMS of the Redbird Battalion, submitted his retirement paperwork. Cadet Command asked me if I was interested in the position and I told them I would have to ask my wife, knowing full well what her response would probably be. My wife is from Maroa, about 45 miles south of Bloomington, and her mom and dad actually met as students at Illinois State. We saw this as an opportunity to get back to our roots, be closer to family, and still continue my passion to develop leaders for our Army. We are truly blessed to be part of the Redbird family and look forward to many years to come as part of this community.

If you could write a letter to yourself at 20 years old, what would it say?

This question reminds me of the song by Mercy Me called “Dear Younger Me.” Part of me would like to warn my younger self of the pits and bumps that I’ve experienced in my life. The reality is those difficult situations helped make me the person I am today and I am very content with who I am and what I’ve done in my life.

If your children were asked to describe their dad, what would they say?

I think my children would describe me as someone who is fun, but has high expectations. They’ve been around the West Point cadets enough to know about these expectations, but that I’m also willing to take time to mentor and develop others. I am blessed with two great kids who, while being different in their own ways, are a reflection of me and my lovely wife.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I truly enjoy the interaction between me and the cadets. It is a rewarding experience to see young men and women as they progress on their journey to become 2nd lieutenants in the Army. Even more than that is the opportunity to stay in contact with these young leaders and serve as their mentor while they are serving in the Army in a wide variety of leadership and staff positions. In terms of my professional life, nothing is more rewarding that when someone says thank you for the impact I was able to make on their life.

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