(JACKSON, Miss.) — The U.S. military gained one of its newest officers recently after Jackson State University’s Tiger Battalion commissioned 2nd Lt. Taylor C. Walker, a native of Jackson, who had told the keynote speaker that he aspires to become a U.S. general one day.
“He did not lack confidence and has set himself up for high expectations,” said Col. Kendrick L. Cager, commander of the 168th Engineer Brigade in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Cager spoke in-person before a select number of family and friends. Others joined the ceremony virtually.
On his special day, Walker acknowledged his family, friends and cadre for their presence and for supporting his commissioning. “I appreciate everything you all have done for me throughout my years,” said the recent graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree in finance, with a minor in military science. As a cadet, he was a platoon leader, field training exercise planner and command sergeant major throughout his years in the battalion.
Meanwhile, with a long military career dating back to 1991 as a private, Cager shared vital attributes to help Walker continue on his path toward service to country and comrades. Cager developed such qualities himself over several decades, culminating in his current command in Vicksburg.
Cager is also a highly decorated Bronze Star medalist who serves full time with the Mississippi Army National Guard as officer for Construction and Facilities Management.
His keys to successful leadership:
- Effective communication – build trust and confidence; learn soldiers’ backgrounds (where they come from and their challenges)
- Character – display ethical and moral qualities to motivate individuals to do what is right
- Presence – possess confidence at all times, and lead by example
- Intellect – create ideas, and understand there may be more than one right answer; have a detailed plan; make intelligent assumptions; be fearless in taking risks; avoid over-analyzing (paralysis by analysis)
- Development – expand soldiers by investing in them with resources and opportunities; understand they all don’t have the same strengths and weaknesses; provide constructive feedback
Lt. Col. Stephen Robinson, chair and professor of military science in the College of Liberal Arts, echoed many of those attributes. He also urged Walker to value soldiers. “Show genuine concern for their well-being,” he said. “First, sit down with your platoon sergeant because he or she will know the platoon. You both must speak with one voice and take care of one another.” He said an important duty is to teach, coach and mentor all soldiers who will fall under Walker’s command.
“Be in the right uniform and right place at the right time. You will always be watched by your soldiers. So, it’s imperative to always do the right thing. Get to know the soldiers and their families. Coach soldiers in all aspects – whether military or personal. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse is the key to success,” Robinson said.
As for Walker, the newly minted second lieutenant will commission in the Mississippi Army National Guard with a branch selection of the Engineer Corps as a combat engineer officer. Also, he will serve as a platoon leader under the 287th Engineer Company in Wiggins, Mississippi.