UI senior ranks no. 16 cadet in the nation

BY MICHELLE KIM | MARCH 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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Cadet Ryan Wilson maintains his steadfast determination after being named as one of the most significant young leaders at the University of Iowa and nationwide.

In February, the U.S. Army Cadet Command ranked Wilson as the No. 16 cadet among roughly 5,600 in the country.

UI senior Wilson is the battalion commander of the UI Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, the highest position in the program. He also received the George C. Marshall award, has been a member of the Presidential Charter Committee since his freshman year, and maintains an academic grade point average of 3.8.

Though the 21-year-old’s list of accomplishments is lengthy, things didn’t always come as easily in high school.

Wilson tried to stay as busy as possibly throughout high school in an attempt to avoid a troubled home life. He said his parents were arrested and served lengthy sentences for crimes related to drugs, alcohol, and gambling when he was 12 years old.

Though he was already active in other school activities, it was not until he met the Junior ROTC instructor at Davenport Central High School, Sgt. Major Michael Matson, that Wilson decided to get involved in ROTC.

“I never wanted to be at home, so I always got involved with a lot of things and found excuses to be at school from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Wilson said. “[Matson] kind of filled in as a father figure for me and was like a mentor … I started falling in love with the military and all the training, so I started thinking about college.”

Matson remembered Wilson as an excellent student, having succeeded in academics, athletics, and leadership.

“I think it was a tough time in his life,” Matson said. “But I think I just helped him find a place through a difficult time. He needed someone to listen to [him].”

To become a member of the cadets, Wilson had to meet certain requirements, including a minimum grade-point average throughout his college career, physical fitness, and leadership courses totaling 35 days during his junior and senior year. 

UI ROTC Lt. Col. David Deyak, a professor of military science, said Wilson’s achievements come from his dedication.

“He’s very much a self-starter,” he said. “He’s one of those kids who took the ball and ran with it.”

Tony Duong, a junior cadet in the army ROTC program, said Wilson’s leadership has been valuable. 

“He’s proactive, leads by example, and is physically fit in what he’s doing,” he said.

After this semester, Wilson will go on active duty and will be an evaluator at Fort Lewis in Washington. He is also interested in attending Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

On Thursday afternoon, Wilson and other ROTC students ran 10 miles carrying 60 pounds of equipment on their backs to train for competition, but he said they’re not unlike other students.

“At the end of the day, when we take our uniforms off, we’re all part of the University of Iowa,” he said. “It is definitely a great opportunity, and it’s providing me with the career and education that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

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