While many college students at the Leader Development and Assessment Course think of getting back to their on-campus social lives after a long grueling day of training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash, 5th Regiment Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Matthew Brand has something entirely different on his mind.
With a wife and three children, Brand is not your average Cadet. Whether he is leading a squad in the field, firing weapons at the range or taking part in cultural awareness, providing for his family is the key motivator for the former enlisted Soldier’s transition to the commissioned officer corps.
“It was definitely the better route to go than stay enlisted,” said Brand. “I am able to provide for my family a little bit better.”
With his wedding band firmly fixed around his ring finger, the 28-year-old Widener University Cadet is reminded of home, but knows what it is like to be apart from his family because of his time as an enlisted Soldier. Twenty-nine days at LDAC is nothing compared to the months he has spent away from his wife and three minor children.
Being without a cell phone is a struggle for many, but it has actually made it easier for Brand to focus. Writing letters is the only contact Cadets have with their loved ones at home.
Brand’s wife has written him a few times so far, but he didn’t bring supplies to write because he didn’t think he would have a chance with the extensive training schedule.
“Sometimes it’s easier from my perspective to be totally away from your connection at home, that way you can focus on your mission here,” Brand explained.
With communication back home limited, Brand connects with fellow Cadets to talk about his family and form close bonds. This makes time pass by as they venture to different training sites, pushing each other through the tough times.
“He talks about his family a lot,” said 5th Reg. Cadet David Winne of Liberty University. “He seems like he’s a really good dad and cares a lot about his family.”
The two share their dedication to their faith by praying every morning and evening together and having a Bible study. Their shared faith encourages the two Cadets to keep going through LDAC.
It can be tough for Brand to connect with some of the Cadets because of his age and family status, something the younger single Cadets simply can’t relate to.
With the knowledge Brand acquired from his time as an enlisted Soldier, he sees himself as more of a leadership figure to fellow Cadets in his squad.
“I try to give as much information as I can to help develop them when I can,” said Brand.
Although he can’t relate to Brand as far as having a family, Winne is thankful for meeting someone he can connect with and learn from.
“I hope I can continue my friendship with him when we are all done here,” said Winne.
Working hard and focusing on the different training sites, Brand helps fellow Cadets complete obstacles, overcome fears and continue forward toward graduation.
“As long as you are focused on what your reason is here, it’s a lot easier,” said Brand. “If you concentrate on everything else, you aren’t going to be able to succeed here.”
Story by Sara Nahrwold