Show-Me Gold officer training program continues growth

The sun was only just coming up as the group finished its march, sitting down to cool off and grab some water at the trailhead in Webb City.

The march had started in darkness about an hour before. Dressed in battle dress uniforms and boots and bearing packs weighing at least 30 pounds, they began their hike on the Frisco Greenway Trail.

At a time when many students are just waking up for class, the members of Show-Me GOLD have already worked up a sweat as part of their regular training regimen.

Over the last few years, young men and women in uniform have become a familiar sight on the Missouri Southern campus. Show-Me GOLD – the Missouri Army National Guard Officer Leadership Program – continues to teach officer candidates about service and leadership.

One day they are riding in a Chinook helicopter over western Missouri to Ft. Leonard Wood for training. Three times a week, they engage in physical fitness training. The early morning marches are common and help keep them in shape for six-mile road marches in full uniform with packs as well as an annual 5K military fitness challenge.

For the students participating in the program, it can prepare them for a career in the National Guard as they hone their leadership skills.

“I heard about Show-Me Gold before I joined the military back in 2013,” says Michele Marquez-Johnson, a junior criminal justice major from Wheaton. “I joined it because I wanted to do more than what the average soldier can do straight out of Basic Training. I wanted to experience the leadership component.

“You learn all kinds of new things. It’s hands-on and really awesome.”

This summer, Capt. Richard Wischmeyer took over as the adviser and professor of military science. A 10-year veteran of the guard, he served in Afghanistan and responded to the Joplin tornado in 2011 and the civil unrest in Ferguson in St. Louis County in 2014.

In 2016, Nathan Skaggs, Carl Junction, Quinn Hobbs, Neosho, and Brandon Walker, Webb City, were commissioned as officers.

Summer 2017 saw two more officers receiving commissions after attending Officer Candidate School. Kenneth Kingcade, Webb City, and Trever Montgomery, Joplin, attended the accelerated OCS program and were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in September.

Connor Hackworth, Anderson, attended traditional OCS and also was commissioned in September. Jacob A. Williams, Joplin, is attending traditional OCS and is expected to complete the program next year.

Wischmeyer says as many as six Show-Me-GOLD members will attend accelerated OCS in the summer of 2018. He says he hopes to see the program grow by up to 15 percent annually over the next three years.

“In Basic Training, recruits learn teamwork, discipline and basic soldier skills,” Wischmeyer says. “In Officer Candidate School, however, soldiers are trained in the fundamentals of leadership while being tested to determine their mental, physical and emotional potential as leaders.”