Tight Ropes and Wingtips

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Cooper Bourdon '11

Lieutenant Colonel Basik explains character to Air Force JROTC cadets

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Basik is motivated to serve in the field of character and leadership because it always plays a relevant role no matter the circumstance or situation at hand.

Basik was interesting, engaging, and insightful throughout his presentation to the Randolph-Macon Academy juniors and seniors in Boggs Chapel on Wednesday, September 6th. He touched on numerous areas of character that were not just relevant, but illuminating. Two, in particular, resonated with the audience.

The Colonel asked for three volunteers from the audience. As they approached the front of Boggs Chapel, he handed each of them four feet of rope with a loop at the end of each. They stood on his right side as he gestured to his left, “This is where I want to be. This is where my goals are.” He demonstrated three things that prevent us from reaching our goals.

Basik slipped his right arm through the loop of the first rope. “This rope represents pressure situations,” he said. He explained that we rarely know what to do our how to react during pressure situations. These circumstances test our mental strength and confidence.

He slipped his left arm through the loop of the second rope. He continued, “This rope is the little voice in our head. The voice that says, ‘Five more minutes,’ when our alarm goes off in the morning.” Even our conscience, our inner guide, can hold us back from the pursuit of our goals.

Lastly, he tied the final rope around his waist. “This rope,” said Basik, “is the most important of them all. It represents the outside voices. The people that surround us.” He gestured the student holding the third rope to stand on his left side now. “It is crucial to surround yourself with people who will pull you in the right direction.” 

As Basik explained, we all have people in our lives who can hold us back, and who can propel us forward. How much time we choose to spend with each is vital to our future, and it takes character to make the right decision.

Lieutenant Colonel Basik demonstrates to military school students the obstacles of life

After the three volunteers took their seats, the Colonel asked, “Who has heard of the Thunderbirds?” Several people raised their hands. “These pilots are amazing,” he said. “They travel at top speeds and perfect synchronization.” He went on to explain how they execute their harmonious synchronization. 

There is one leader of the group, and he or she decides where the pilots are flying and how fast. The rest of the crew, with meticulous concentration, focus on the wing of the fighter jet in front of them. “Traveling at speeds up to 400 miles per hour, these pilots stay within 18-36 inches of each other,” explained Basik. One wrong move by the leader could lead to a fatal ending.

The Colonel reached his point. “You have peers who are watching your wingtips,” he explained. “They are looking to you to see what is acceptable, or what is right, or what is funny here at school.” In other words, certain cadets look to their peers to set the tone. It is an awesome responsibility to establish what kind of culture will be set at your school. It is an awesome opportunity to display character through leadership.  

Later in the morning, Basik spoke separately to the freshmen and sophomores, and to the faculty and staff, tailoring his message to each audience.