Hallie Lauer | Features Editor
For as long as he can remember, Patrick Channell wanted to be in the Army. He grew up wanting to be just like his dad, who retired from the Army when Patrick was 16. Channell, a Duquesne senior International Relations major, was recently named the cadet battalion commander of the Three Rivers Battalion Senior Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (SROTC).
Army ROTC is a pre-Army curriculum designed to give college students the skills and training to enter the Army once they graduate. However, since it is an elective program, students can participate during their freshman and sophomore years without any obligation to join the Army.
Channell has been a member since his freshman year; after his sophomore year he went to the Cadet Basic Camp at Fort Knox and the following year he attended the Cadet Advanced Camp also at Fort Knox.
“I originally wanted to join [the Army] right out of high school, but my dad insisted I go to college first,” Channell said. “I don’t think my dad wanted me or any of my brothers to go into the Army, but he supports me.”
In April, Channell was told that he would be cadet battalion commander for his senior year at Duquesne, a one-year position held by a senior ROTC member who is handpicked by the cadre.
“I oversee everything the battalion does or fails to do. I wear a million hats at once, and I’m the mediator between cadre and cadets,” Channell said.
As the cadet battalion commander, Channell will have command over 13 schools spanning from Greensburg, PA to Steubenville, OH. This region encompasses about 270 students.
“Patrick had to distinguish himself from his fellow classmates in academics, physical fitness, community service, tactical competence, leadership evaluations and peer evaluations,” said James Henderson, military sciences instructor at the University of Pittsburgh.
After Channell’s junior year, he completed Cadet Troop Leader Training (CTLT) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington. According to Henderson, CTLT is “an immersive experience where cadets assume roles as Platoon Leader in the Regular Army.”
Despite the long list of experience and qualifications, cadet battalion commander wasn’t Channell’s original goal.
“I didn’t want it,” Channell said in reference to the position. “I’m happy I did [it] though. It’s a very humbling position and I’m grateful for the experiences I had and am going to have but it’s a lot of pressure. It’s kind of nerve wracking to think ‘holy crap I’m in charge of 270 other people.’”
These 270 people also follow a strict and busy schedule. ROTC schedule starts at 6 a.m. Monday morning. They have physical training from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. On Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m. are the Battalion meetings where training events are planned.
Channell meets every Friday with Lieutenant Colonel and professor of military science, Jason Eddy, to discuss the events of the previous week.
“One of my goals was, because we have so many schools, I wanted to make it to every one,” Channell said. “I wanted to make it to every school at least once. It’s kind of hard early in the morning, but I’m going to do it.”
Making it to each of the 13 schools isn’t the only trial Channell is facing in this new position.
“The biggest challenge is probably just communication. [It] is always the biggest issue, especially with a program so large,” Channell said.
Three Rivers Battalion has been steadily growing since 1980’s and is now one of the largest in the country with more female cadets than any other SROTC program in the country, according to Henderson.
Duquesne in combination with with Point Park University, has 33 students out of the 270 in the Three Rivers Battalion.
“Duquesne has always been smaller program wise,” Channell said. “I’m working with Mark Cecil and Don [Accamando] to make it more known and active on campus to hopefully make it as big as University of Pittsburgh’s.”
Channell is set to graduate in May 2019 in the top 10 percent of all ROTC members in the nation. That ranking is based on GPA, leadership experiences in extracurriculars, scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test and performance at Advanced Camp in Fort Knox. The same week as commencement, he will commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.
“The Three Rivers Battalion has a reputation for producing outstanding leaders of character and Patrick is responsible to carry the weight of that reputation and tradition – a task he is performing admirably,” Henderson said.