Brigade commander John Kadz juggles multiple responsibilities

Dealing with the rush of leadership


On any given day this semester, John Kadz may have been as busy as any governor or senator.

Most midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy lead pretty busy lives, whisked from formations to classes and everywhere between. But Kadz, like a student body president at a civilian college, routinely fills up 15 hours in every day working as the school's brigade commander.

Kadz, 25, reached the school's highest rank in a roundabout way. After his first two years in Annapolis, he resigned to serve two years as a missionary in South Korea for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before departing for South Korea, he spent almost a year working for a congressman from his home state of Nevada.

When he was reaccepted at the academy for his junior year in 2004, Kadz said becoming a high-ranking academy leader - called "stripers" for the stripes on their sleeves denoting rank - was the furthest thing from his mind.

He threw his application into the mix and went through three interviews with senior academy leaders. Last November, he was called into the offices of Capt. Bruce Grooms, the No. 2 leader at the school, pleased with the thought of a low-level leadership spot.

"It was a humbling experience," he said. "The ultimate goal for a midshipman officer is ... to experience what it's like to be a leader and have responsibility over large groups of people. Sometimes it can be intense, because I'm a midshipman and I'm often dealing with officers who have 20 or 30 years of experience."

Kadz, who will graduate in two weeks, said a recent weekday was a good summary of a typical day: up at 6 a.m. for religious study, then on to morning formation and breakfast; at 8 a.m., a meeting with Grooms and his staff; then, to class; at noon, a luncheon with the visiting leaders of Asian service academies.

Kadz said that the superintendent of the Malaysian Naval Academy was particularly interested in leadership programs at the Annapolis military college.

"I told him how we get lots of opportunities to apply the things we learn in classes about leadership," he said.

At 1 p.m., he had to go to an honor hearing, where midshipmen judge their peers for alleged violations of the school's honor code. Kadz, who presides at some meetings and often makes recommendations to Grooms on whether to expel a midshipman, declined to say what happened at the hearing.

"It's probably the hardest part of my job as brigade commander and making those decisions based on facts that are presented," he said.

After the hour-long hearing, Kadz went to practice the sword-wielding techniques he uses to lead parades, then to a review for his engineering final and, lastly, to a parade. In the remaining few hours he was awake, he went to a reception at the home of Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy superintendent, took a photo with fellow players on his intramural hockey team, attended a Japanese study session and briefly chatted with his fiancee.

Grooms, the academy commandant and civilian equivalent of a dean of students, said Kadz juggles the responsibilities "flawlessly." Grooms said in an e-mail that he is "the most mature, level-headed and humble young man with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working."

He recalled a weekend last month when the brigade staff was coordinating a handful of activities for the annual spring sports weekend. That included trying to set an attendance record for Navy's lacrosse game against the Johns Hopkins University, and organizing midshipmen support of a baseball game against Army, a Special Olympics event, the annual croquet match against St. John's College and about 10 other events.

"I was in full gear ready to give Midshipman Kadz all of the direction he needed," Grooms said. "He simply looked me in the eye and said, `Sir, please let me and my staff figure out all the details. I promise, you will not be disappointed in us.'"

Sure enough, Grooms said, he did.

Kadz is looking forward to getting married next month and heading to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. He doesn't have any far-reaching aspirations for Navy greatness, he said, a somewhat uncommon sentiment among the upper echelon of midshipmen leaders.

"I believe in the mission of the Navy because it gives me a sense and feeling that what I'm doing is important," he said. "I enjoy helping my country and look forward to serving in whatever capacity I'm assigned."

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