Since freshman year, Madison “Maddie” Yocklin ‘22 had her sights set on being Cadet Battalion Commander in the Southern Guards Battalion. It’s been nearly 40 years since a Converse student served in this role, and through daily resolve, grit, and training, she’s achieved it. From class to cadet training, Madison has proved she has what it takes to lead her peers by acing Military Science tests, mastering drills, and applying her knowledge through ROTC labs. She will serve as Cadet Battalion Commander for the Spring 2022 semester and then go on to serve in the Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry after graduation in May. Dedicated Biology major, collegiate athlete, and now Cadet Battalion Commander, Madison is Converse University’s second student to ever serve in this role in the 102-year history of the Southern Guards Battalion U.S. Army ROTC (Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program.
Madison’s father, Thomas Yocklin, Chief of Operations, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Detrick served as an infantryman in the Army for 22 years as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He relayed the story of how Madison decided to join the Army on her own by saying, “In January of her senior year in high school, she saw a video of a female helicopter pilot in Iraq on the television, and she said to me, ‘Could I do something like that?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, of course, you can.’ At the time I knew it was too late in the year for her to apply for ROTC, but I encouraged her to do it anyway, and she ended up being selected. We didn’t pressure her to join the military; she just decided she wanted to on her own. She definitely went for something non-traditional, and my wife and I are extremely proud of her, and she’s got a great future ahead of her.”
Madison’s momentum to being selected as the Spring 2022 Cadet Battalion Commander progressed when she excelled in Cadet Summer Training during the summer of her junior year. During Cadet Summer Training, Madison was selected to receive a Distinguished Military Graduate Award which is only given to the top 20% of cadets nationwide.
“I went out of my way to learn everything I could possibly learn in ROTC,” said Madison Yocklin. “I decided to work hard quietly, get in the best shape I could, and learn everything I could to be the best I could be.”
Additionally, she outperformed her battalion in the Ruck March, a 6-mile hike with a 35-pound backpack. Out of 60 male and female cadets in her battalion, Madison was the fastest cadet to complete the Ruck March with a time of 1 hour and 13 minutes.
“Cadet Yocklin had the fastest time in our entire battalion,” said Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Slyder, Professor of Military Science at the Southern Guards Battalion. “Her Ruck March time was very impressive, and overall throughout the whole camp she landed in an excellent position.” Lieutenant Colonel Slyder continued, “She was a clear selection for Cadet Battalion Commander, whose leadership responsibilities include training, recruitment efforts, and community outreach. The battalion commander is responsible for the overall quality of the training in the program.”
The selection process for Cadet Battalion Commander assesses cadets holistically, seeking not only physical abilities but also strong communication skills, tactical prowess, and the ability to effectively lead others.
“We want our battalion commander to be somebody who is well-rounded– physically fit, a good communicator, and someone who has interpersonal tact,” stated Captain Moses Hopkins, AG, Assistant Professor of Military Science at the Southern Guards Battalion. “She definitely displays all of those qualities. She wears many hats– she’s a collegiate athlete as a captain of Converse’s field hockey team, she has a great GPA, and she’s very present in ROTC. While doing these things, she also ensures that she communicates with her peers as an ambassador for the program.”
During her college career at Converse, Madison has not only been a leader in ROTC but also in Field Hockey. Her father Thomas Yocklin said, “I remember after her first field hockey season at Converse, the team didn’t have a very good record. I think they won one game and she was so disappointed. And I said to her, ‘You know what, this is an opportunity. This is where you can be a leader. You can help grow this team and make it something you will be proud of your senior year.’ And wow, look at it now. This past November, they just won the South Atlantic Conference Carolinas Field Hockey Championship, and she’s a team captain. They’ve just grown so much and it’s so great to see.”
After graduation in May, Madison will follow in her father’s footsteps and join the Infantry as a Second Lieutenant, which was her top Army branch choice.
“I found out I was selected to the infantry over Christmas break, and I was so happy,” said Madison Yocklin. “It was a dream come true. I’m proud of all the work I’ve put in to get to this point, and I know that I will always want to be working towards strengthening myself and carrying out goals and missions, so it felt like the right move for me.”
“She indicated that she wanted to be an infantry officer and she showed a lot of tactical prowess in that area, so she got selected for active duty,” said Lieutenant Colonel Slyder. “Her hard work and skills earned her the branch that she wanted. Madison is one of those individuals who has a great attitude and is willing to put in the work to achieve her goals and get to where she wants to be in life. Her father was also in the infantry, and so she came with what we call “infantry spirit.” And those are the people that are just willing to do what it takes to get the mission done. She’s worked very diligently to rise above her peers.”
Lieutenant Colonel Slyder continued, “We are really excited about the Converse students that we currently have in our ROTC program, and we are looking forward to increasing our visibility and interaction with even more Converse students to see if ROTC is the right fit for them.”