After graduating from Shakopee High School in 2018, Dallas Garwood secured an Army scholarship to attend The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, based in Charleston, South Carolina. Garwood is now heading into his final year at the senior military college and recently earned a spot on the prestigious Summerall Guards. The silent precision drill platoon made up of 61 senior cadets performs at The Citadel and various events.

These cadets demonstrate “The Citadel ideals of honor, integrity, loyalty, leadership, self-discipline, and patriotism,” according to the college. The cadets go through physical training and an initiation process, and are chosen for their physical stamina and drill proficiency.

“There are inspections and a lot of PT. It’s a really challenging time,” Garwood told me last week when he was home for a short break. “They weed the numbers down from however many people go out to the final 61 based on a point system. Next year I’ll perform drills with the Summerall Guards. It’s a way to showcase The Citadel.”

As a cadet, Garwood was issued an M14 rifle for the parades that usually take place every Friday. The Army loans the rifles to The Citadel, and many of them have rich histories.

“One guy searched the serial number of his rifle and traced it back to the Korean War,” Garwood said. Now that he’s a member of the Summerall Guards, he’ll use a bolt action Springfield rifle fitted with a bayonet.

“Those rifles are named, and it’s a pretty big deal who hands you that rifle. It’s a hand-me-down tradition,” he said. Next year as a senior officer, he’ll also wear a sword engraved with his name in parades. “The guard drills and parades are reminders of why you’re there, and a lot of people come out to watch the parades on Fridays.”

I got to know Garwood when he was in high school and I was a volunteer with the youth football association. He came to practices to help youth players learn techniques and plays. The players looked up to him, so I’m not surprised that he’s continuing to be a leader. I’ve watched the parades and Summerall Guards videos on YouTube, and they’re impressive.

This week, Garwood is reporting to Fort Knox in Kentucky for Advanced Camp. It’s a 37-day training and evaluation program designed to build and access cadets’ officer leadership skills.

“I got a three-year active duty scholarship from the Army, so I’ve been doing ROTC classes at The Citadel. I’ll go to Advanced Camp this summer, and after that, I’ll find out during my senior year what job I’ll get in the Army,” Garwood said. “Next year I’ll graduate and be commissioned as an officer, and then I’ll start training for my job.”

He’s majoring in electrical engineering and his top job preferences are to join the infantry or an armored division. With three years under his belt at The Citadel, he’s already learned a lot about leadership and military life.

“The rank system that the school has in place was a challenge. Freshmen year, you don’t have any leadership. You are at the bottom of the totem pole so you’re taught basics, like everything you need to know to survive there,” he said. “You spend the year learning and getting corrected on everything. Sophomore year, you get your first shot at leadership. During my sophomore year, I was a cadre squad corporal, so I helped train incoming freshmen.”

As a junior, he was a cadre squad sergeant who helped the corporals train the freshmen. This coming year he’ll be an athletic officer in charge of making physical training plans for a company of more than 100 cadets.

“This is really about growing the leadership process as you grow as a cadet,” Garwood said. “You start out as a follower, then you get more and more leadership responsibilities as you grow. I feel like that really helps prepare you if you’re going into the military or if you go into the corporate world.”

Senior military colleges like The Citadel are different from both traditional colleges and federal service academies like the Naval Academy. Cadets wear uniforms, take leadership courses in addition to their regular classes, and males have their heads shaved on day one, but they are not required to join the military after graduation.

“The Citadel offers leadership and a military day-to-day lifestyle, which is what caught my eye,” Garwood said. “I definitely feel more confident in my leadership, especially in my public speaking. Back in high school, I got a C in public speaking. Starting with being a cadre sergeant, I became better at public speaking.”

Garwood is leaning toward a career in the Army and looking forward to the opportunities it offers.

“One of the big things that pushed me to join the Army was the ability to go see the world,” he said. “I feel like it’s a valuable way to learn and grow as a leader.”

Brett Martin is a guest columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.