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The University of Alabama

Find Your Passion: Internalizing Teamwork Concept

By Sarah Caroline Willcox

Tarbox stands in front of UA’s ROTC building. (Samantha Hernandez)

Tarbox stands in front of UA’s ROTC building. (Samantha Hernandez)

At The University of Alabama, leaders are everywhere—in the classroom, in extracurricular activity, in campus organizations and among faculty. But the ultimate goal of leadership on campus is becoming a leader in the community and, for some, the nation. Travis Tarbox, a senior majoring in criminal justice, is working toward that ultimate goal as an Army ROTC cadet ranked third in the country, according to the National Order of Merit List for the 2009-2010 academic year.

The summer after his junior year at UA, Tarbox, 21, submitted his Cadet Performance Score to the U.S. Army Cadet Command along with more than 4,700 undergraduate cadets from across the country. The score is calculated based on academic, military and physical performance, in all of which, Tarbox excelled. More aptly, the score is a number value assigned to the cadet’s passion, drive and determination throughout their performance on campus, as observed by his or her peers and instructors.

In October 2009, Tarbox was recognized for his high ranking and, as a true team player, Tarbox credits his achievements on the OML and in the UA ROTC program to his superiors and to those working beside him in his battalion.

According to Lt. Col. Jim Shaver, professor of military science and department chair for the military science department, “It is extremely important to be a team player as a cadet and future officer. [Teamwork] is essential to our success, and Travis has internalized that concept already.”

Tarbox is scheduled to begin active duty Oct. 3 as a commissioned officer. He will attend aviation school at Fort Rucker. (Samantha Hernandez)

Tarbox is scheduled to begin active duty Oct. 3 as a commissioned officer. He will attend aviation school at Fort Rucker. (Samantha Hernandez)

In the fall of 2009, Tarbox served as the cadet battalion commander. The highest position a cadet can hold in the battalion, Tarbox was selected to lead his peers by Shaver. Similarly to the OML, the battalion commander position is chosen based on a cadet’s performance in academics, physical fitness and performance. Shaver says all of the senior cadets hold cadet officer positions in the battalion, as all of them are encouraged to be scholars, athletes and leaders.

“We have a great ROTC program here at UA, and Travis is one of many outstanding young men and women in the Crimson Tide Battalion,” Shaver says.

Tarbox, a native of Birmingham, is at the University on a four-year ROTC scholarship. He says it has been an ambition of his since middle school to serve his country through the United States Army, and he knew enrollment in the UA ROTC program was the first step in accomplishing his goal.

Generally, cadets can take the first two years of ROTC classes without committing to the U.S. Army. Once they begin their third year or the advanced course, they must sign a contract with the Army. Upon graduation and completion of their courses, they become commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

“I always think there is a way I can do better,” Tarbox says of his motivation to continue with the ROTC program through his four years at UA. “If I achieve good results the first time I do something, I force myself to do better the second time around.”

In addition to its obvious esteem, ranking third on the OML has its perks. The top 10 percent of cadets on the list are given their first choice of the Army branch where they will serve; Tarbox chose aviation. He says he is interested specifically in helicopters, and, upon graduation, he will reside in Fort Rucker, Ala., for up to a year and a half of aviation school. Once more, Tarbox credits his interest in aviation to the UA ROTC program for giving him a chance to branch into Army aviation; without his determination in the ROTC program, he may not have had the opportunity to advance immediately to pilot training.

“There are many branches in the U.S. Army, so, through ROTC, cadets can work toward branching into an area that suits his or her interests,” Tarbox says. “I’m not really sure what sparked my interest in flying. From an early age, I have always had the urge [to fly].”

The UA ROTC Program was established in 1860, and, since its installment, has produced more than 7,500 U.S. officers, 42 general officers and six governors of Alabama. Each year more than 160 students take Army ROTC classes, and about one third of these students are on scholarship. In addition to experiencing military organizational culture, roles of the armed forces, leadership management, and leader communication skills, students develop individual leadership and credentials that will benefit them in their life after UA.

Tarbox says he is slated to begin active duty on Oct. 3 as a commissioned officer.

“I would be lying if I said I was not apprehensive about the changes that will occur in my life once I commission,” Tarbox says. “But the changes will be for the better and represent four years of hard work, so I’m not too worried about them.”

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Sarah Caroline Willcox is a senior at The University of Alabama, majoring in public relations, with a minor in English. She is from Birmingham.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.

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