Although Lt. Col. Richard Smith has been here at Iowa State only two years, he has aspired to create a positive impact on the ISU Army ROTC program.
For the majority of his two-year tenure at ISU, Smith has been a major in the U.S. Army. Smith was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel earlier this year, with an official promotion ceremony held Wednesday at the Holiday Inn.
The promotion from major to lieutenant colonel is considered a landmark promotion in the Army, but Smith says he didn’t get there all by himself.
“I think the biggest thing for me to be where I am today it is not what I did as an individual,” Smith said. “I have had soldiers and officers along the way who have inspired and developed me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the guys who worked for me.”
Smith said it’s all about the relationships you make.
“We tell our cadets, you can’t do this on your own, it’s a team sport. You don’t get where you’re going without working and building relationships, it’s a people business. It’s what were all about, is taking care of soldiers, if you take care of them they take care of you.”
Smith, who has been in the Army for about 24 years, was selected by a board to be the commander and professor of military science for the ISU Army ROTC program.
Being deployed three times; twice in the past ten years to Afghanistan, Smith thinks that has helped him bring a fresh and new perspective to the Army ROTC program at Iowa State.
“I think I’ve brought in some different perspectives, having just come out of Afghanistan I think really that countered the look and feel of where I’ve been to where the Army was at the time and gave me up to date perspectives and a fresh look on it,” Smith said.
Smith describes his leadership style as one that prepares the cadets well for when they commission and leave for Iowa State.
“I treat them like lieutenant interns, and I have introduced systems to our cadet leadership that they will be required to execute when they commission, from the current methodology of writing the plans (CONOPS) to the after action reports, to tracking training using Army methodologies,” Smith said.
“In a program this good, it only requires small tweaks to take it to the next level, they were small changes in the grand scheme of things, but it is something that will make them better leaders and better prepared lieutenants,”
Cadet Ryan Brady, junior in history, said Smith works hard with students.
“He goes above and beyond to make sure we develop into the future officers we can be, than say other instructors and commanders would. Especially with his lower leadership too, he instructs them on how to instruct us better,” Brady said.
Iowa State has a decorated Army ROTC program, winning several awards throughout its history. Smith said that awards are very good to have but the program is not necessarily all about winning the awards but preparing his students.
“We have won lots of awards and thankfully, we continued to win after my first two years, but it’s not about the awards,” Smith said. “This job is about preparing these cadets to lead soldiers in any environment and contingency, and I think we do a pretty darn good job of getting them ready.”
Cadet Megan Ripperger, junior in dietetics, said Smith works to prepare them for their careers as officers in the military.
“I think he really challenges us to like go beyond to where we think we can reach and challenges us to make our goals higher to make us better, not only as cadets but as future officers,” Ripperger said.
Smith believes that enjoying what you do is a key aspect for the Army and its ability to effectively teach cadets and soldiers how to lead other soldiers.
“I truly enjoy what I am doing here as the commander and professor of military science at Iowa State Army ROTC, and I think that is key for the Army, you have to enjoy what you are doing and enjoy leading soldiers and, in this case, cadets,” Smith said.