Mission Focused - Values Driven

"We educate, develop, and inspire young men in a college preparatory, Christian, military environment.  Cadets build character, and learn leadership, independence, confidence, responsibility, and discipline in a setting that encourages mental, physical, and spiritual growth."

By the end of next year, everyone who works or attends Fork Union Military Academy will be able to recite this mission statement, and define our core values of respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline.  We will live those core values as we achieve the mission.

Seventy eight days until the Upper School Commencement.  Dr. Charles "Chuck" Swindoll is scheduled to be our speaker, and we've corresponded about logistics and the topic for his speech.  He's chosen to speak on integrity...which aligns well with our core values.  While May 25th marks the end of the academic year, it marks the beginning of "life after high school" for our seniors and postgraduates. 

This afternoon we presented academic awards for those achieving Deans List and Honor Roll.  I was privileged to present the ribbons and stars to the senior company.  At the end of the brief ceremony I told them that graduation was imminent, and that each day I learned more about the success of our graduates. 

I've learned that Fork Union Military Academy affords the same benefits available at senior military colleges and service academies.  Graduates from those colleges are sought for their ability to learn and adapt quickly.  Conformity to military discipline and structure is not accompanied by a loss of individuality or creativity.  In fact, military environments properly channel and showcase these attributes (which are in high demand today). 

This week we received a visit from a winter storm named Saturn.  We are still recovering and cleaning up, but today we had full power (but limited internet access) and were able to keep our exams on schedule.  Wednesday was a day of intermittent power, cold, high winds, and about 6 inches of very wet slushy snow.  We were unable to communicate with parents as much I would have liked, but appreciated your trust as we worked through what was more nuisance than catastrophe.

Other than a few errant snowballs and loud screams, the cadets were amazingly well behaved and resilient, taking the paper plates, darkness, and early afternoon CQ (mandatory study period) in stride.  A few cadets told me they liked going to sleep at 1900 (7:00 PM), but many would have preferred the normal daily routine.

Last week ended with meetings about increasing bandwidth for the laptops (required for each cadet next year), and finalizing plans to add Wi-Fi to every campus building and classroom.  MAJ Scott Krogh, our Director of Information Technology, is doing a remarkable job of preparing us for the future.  We are well on our way to developing digital citizens. 

Cadets will understand and be required to model the proper use of available technology, and practice digital etiquette.  We will give more trust rather than less, with a system of "trust but verify" as we support students from a generation that can easily be overwhelmed by information while learning to seek knowledge.

This past Saturday was Alumni Speaker Day and our Senior-Postgraduate Dinner.  We also hosted meetings of the Alumni Association Board.  The cadets seemed to enjoy the last hour of the Saturday classes as alumni spoke of the lessons they'd learned here, and the evening ended with a "dining-in like event" with remarks by Mr. Tom Bown, who graduated in 1963.

His comments centered on his FUMA experience, his success since, and the close friendships he had with his teammates and classmates.  He reinforced our regular dose of "you get out of Fork Union what you put into it" and helped the young men understand that success comes from working hard, and making the most of your current circumstances.  Tom and his wife Bonnie seemed to enjoy sitting at a table filled with the Battalion and Class of 2013 leadership, and were also joined by MG Bob Scales, another distinguished graduate, from the Class of 1962.

The highlight of my Monday was a briefing by the cadets who attended the National Character and Leadership Symposium  at the United States Air Force Academy a few weeks ago.  They told me what they enjoyed most about the trip, including a summary of the best presentations.  I was impressed by the impact and depth of reflection this conference had on their espoused and actual leadership styles. 

One of these cadets is a cadet lieutenant, leading a platoon (floor) of high school sophomores.  One of his cadets was recommended for dismissal.  This lieutenant came up to visit my Assistant, and asked that I consider providing the cadet "another chance."  He believed this young man finally understood his mistakes (none of them harmful to others) and wanted to continue helping him develop his character.  Today I held his dismissal in abeyance as long as the young man met certain conditions.

It was encouraging to see cadet leaders understand that compassion, coaching, mentoring, and support are elements of a leadership style that will work here at FUMA, and in the world outside this community.

Our mission here will only succeed if we educate, develop, and inspire young men in a way that builds character and teaches leadership that works in today's environment...and encourages the critical thinking skills necessary for the future.

Coincidently, the day before this latest bad storm, we held a drill we call "Code Yellow."  This weather related lockdown is announced when we are under imminent threat of a tornado, hurricane, or severe thunderstorm.  Our automated 15-second bursts from the rooftop of Hatcher Hall are combined with campus-wide verbal announcements on our PA system.  The drill was a success...and I attached the only picture taken...

I know the cadets will enjoy Spring Break (which begins tomorrow) as much as the faculty will appreciate the well-deserved time away.  Many administrators and staff will remain at school "catching up" from the busy weeks behind us...so that we can be ready for the home stretch to graduation, and make preparations for Summer School.

My prayer is that all these young men will return safely on Sunday March 17th, and that my daughter and son-in-law will enjoy a wonderful week in Maui...while the rest of us remain behind. 

Oh to be young again...