By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Cadet 1st Class Andrew VanTimmeren took the helm as the Academy’s newest Cadet Wing commander Jan. 5, but he almost didn’t stay past his second day of Basic Cadet Training.
Cadet VanTimmeren, then a basic cadet, was ready to pack it in and head home until a chaplain challenged him that if he left then, he would accomplish nothing.
“I found my niche in Basic and as a four-degree,” the member of Cadet Squadron 12 said. “I’m so happy I didn’t leave.”
Cadet Wing commander candidates undergo a series of interviews, first at the squadron level and subsequently at the group and wing levels.
On the job only a week, Cadet VanTimmeren pays daily morning visits to squadrons, sits on the cadet pay and standards and evaluation boards and coordinates with the dean of the faculty, commandant of cadets and athletic director, among other responsibilities.
“It’s an exciting opportunity no matter who you are,” he said.
Cadet VanTimmeren said he believes good leaders care about their people, know everyone’s job and are approachable. He also stressed they continue to better themselves.
“We have to practice here,” he said. “Good leaders want to practice and improve themselves.”
He added good leaders don’t lose sight of where they came from as well and that leadership is a continuing process.
“A stagnant Academy is a repressed Academy,” he said.
Cadet VanTimmeren said he favors a servant kind of leadership and that he is in the position to serve.
“Self-centered leadership is toxic leadership,” he said. “I will do anything I can do for the people.”
So far, he has received positive feedback from other cadets in his new leadership role, though there has been some negative feedback as well.
“I’m something of a hardball,” he explained. “I’m more stringent and by-the-book.”
One example is that three-degrees are not allowed to wear a star on their shoulder boards.
“It’s in the book,” he said.
After graduation with a major in political science, “V.T.,” as his friends call him, is headed to pilot training. Until then, Cadet VanTimmeren said he wants to focus on creating more institutional pride and giving cadets more leadership opportunities, even at the lowest level.
“I want to empower our people,” he said.
He also wants to make character and leadership seminars as applicable as possible, at the Academy and after graduation.
He also stressed the value of learning from history, pointing to the upcoming National Character and Leadership Symposium, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 18-19. The guest speakers, as well as air officers commanding and Academy military training NCOs, all have stories to tell.
“Not to listen to them would be a huge loss,” he added. “Everybody needs to learn from others around them.”
The biggest challenge cadets face on a daily basis is time management, the Michigan resident believes.
Cadet VanTimmeren has advice for arriving Basic Cadets this summer.
“Get ready for the greatest experiences of your life,” he said and added, “You will have good and bad days, but you will do things you would have not thought possible.”