Col. Greg Gadson dreamed of winning a college scholarship and one day playing for the NFL. While pro-ball would be beyond his reach, Gadson did receive a scholarship offer from the U.S. Military Academy, which provided a quality education, a mentor and a life’s mantra.
The lessons Gadson learned from Coach Jim Young, a College Hall of Fame member who coached at West Point from 1983-90, carried the wounded veteran and now feature player in the movie Battleship, throughout his military career.
“If you really study the game of football, you have three different teams—offense, defense, special teams. Coach Young really found a way of trading objectives in an environment where we all knew we depended on each other. The game wasn’t won in any one of the particular phases. These three words —pride, poise, and team—were what he built the team around. The last thing that Coach Young did—and maybe the most important act that’s followed me through my military career—was create expectations. Coach didn’t care if you were a freshman or a senior, he expected you to perform if you were on the field. That helped me understand that just because you are a junior, a private or don’t have much experience, that doesn’t give you an excuse not to prepare or work hard.”
When Gadson began building an artillery unit from the ground up in 2005, he harkened back to concepts learned from Young.
“A battalion has different functions, and we had to realize how to work together to reach our objectives, and that no position was more important than another,” Gadson says. “I’m very proud to say my battalion was part of the brigade that went to Iraq in early 2007 as part of the Surge, and my battalion was the only one out of the brigade in which everyone came back alive after a 14- or 15-month deployment.”