USNA WELCOMES NEW BRIGADE COMMANDER
POSTED ON: Friday, August 23, 2019 2:14 PM by MC3 Josiah Pearce
Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Bill Rogers is this year’s fall semester brigade commander, the highest position in the midshipman command structure.
Leading approximately 4,400 midshipmen, the brigade commander is expected to execute policy, maintain brigade efficiency, oversee general morale, and foster mutual respect for all midshipmen. The brigade commander is also accountable for brigade conduct, reporting deficiencies to the Commandant of Midshipmen, and recommending corrective action.
“I was talking about this with one of my mentors, and he told me that when you sit down and look in the mirror, you need to realize you are one of about 350 people who’ve held this position,” said Rogers. “That, to me, is special.”
Rogers has held several leadership positions during his time at the academy: 30th platoon squad leader, 30th company training sergeant, 2nd regiment sergeant major and 30th platoon commander.
“On the individual level, I care about my fellow midshipmen deeply,” said Rogers. “In my previous position I was in charge of making sure the company improved, and now I need to think that way for the entire brigade. I definitely think I’m up for the challenge.”
Rogers was born in Dallas, Texas, and grew up wanting to attend the United States Naval Academy after touring USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as a child, which was his first experience with the Navy.
“There I was, an 8 or 9-year-old kid, walking around on the flight deck,” said Rogers. “All I could think was, this is the coolest thing ever.”
After high school, Rogers accepted a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, where he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps before being accepted to the Naval Academy.
“During my time at Oklahoma, the person who really motivated me was my Gunnery Sergeant, [Julio] Sandoval,” said Rogers.
Sandoval, now a first sergeant, is the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor at the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit, University of Oklahoma. Rogers joked about having nightmares of Sandoval screaming at him for messing up his shoes or not cleaning his rifle properly.
“I live every single day earning the right for him to call me ‘sir’, so I can’t take a day off,” said Rogers. “I hope to be the man that he wants to call ‘sir’ when I graduate, so that motivates me every day.”
Learning from the leadership styles of his fellow midshipmen also prepared Rogers for his role ahead.
“From plebe (freshman) year onward, you must constantly watch what the upperclassmen are doing, taking pieces and discarding others to try to develop your own style,” said Rogers. “While all of this is going on and you're learning from fellow midshipmen, you also have excellent examples of officers and senior enlisted leaders who have been in the fleet and have done almost everything there is to do. It is the perfect mix of experimentation and experience.”
Each semester, a selection board consisting of battalion officers and the deputy commandant of midshipmen interviews first class midshipmen for various brigade leadership positions. Rogers competed against approximately 30 midshipmen for the top position.
“The way Rogers articulated his plans to lead the Brigade of Midshipmen truly impressed us,” said 6th Battalion Officer Cmdr. Kelly Laing, a career submariner and member of the brigade commander selection board. “His vision of the brigade, extreme ownership displayed, and love of his fellow midshipmen made him a clear choice and inspired me to want to be a better leader.”
Rogers emphasized the significance of personal interaction and communication—that simply taking the time to visit with peers and learn about those with whom he serves is an essential aspect of his leadership approach. Rogers noted the pride he felt when the plebes he mentored made it through their first year.
“I was talking to plebes going into their second year who told me they hated me when I was a detailer, but now they’re able to appreciate the foundation I’ve laid for them,” said Rogers. “I think it’s amazing to watch midshipmen put their pride aside and respect the midshipmen chain of command because it’s their turn to lead and learn from their position of command.”
Rogers then said that while he believes he has a solid foundation, there is still work to be done and he can’t do it alone.
“I’m learning a lot about tasking my staff members to get the job done,” said Rogers. “When I see a problem, I just want to dive right into it, so I feel like having them around will help me develop a lot as a leader.”
According to Midshipman 1st Class Elizabeth Hosie, brigade executive officer, the brigade commander has a broad focus, so it’s important to have a support staff that’s capable of carrying out the commander’s intent at a lower level.
“We’re all new to these jobs,” said Hosie. “We’ve never been first class [midshipmen] before, let alone brigade staff, so to have someone who comes in not only knowing what they want to accomplish, but knowing how they want to accomplish it, means we can get the job done that much faster. We’re already a close team, and it’s the commander who sets the climate, so I think he’s done a great job.”
Rogers referenced a quote that inspires him to become a better leader, saying it helped solidify his resolve as a future officer: “The soldier who has died due to the failure of his officer is a crime before God. So study hard, young lieutenant. Prepare yourself well. Burn the midnight oil so that in your old age you will not look down at your hands to find his blood red upon them.”
“I try to live by those words every single day,” said Rogers.
According to Rogers, everyone has their own way of accomplishing their goals, so it’s important for senior leadership to set the tone for the rest of the year.
“Always remember the number of days until graduation,” said Rogers. “It’s not about wanting to leave this place, but the fact that there are that many days until someone calls me ‘sir’. I have that many days until I can be expected to jump in front of a division and lead. These chiefs and sergeants are often so much more experienced, so to waste time when I could be trying to catch up and learn is something I try to avoid every day. Do I think I’m ready? No, but I have that many days to close that gap, so I will be ready when the time comes.”
As of Saturday, Aug. 31, there are 265 days until graduation.
As the undergraduate college of our country's naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.