When 21-year-old Andrew Gomez opened an official letter announcing he was ranked second in the nation out of 5,536 other Army ROTC cadets, at first he didn’t believe it. The moment felt unreal, and warily he waited for somebody to wake him from this marvelous dream.
On a recent afternoon, training cadets outdoors at a University of North Georgia facility in Dahlonega, the young man from Cumming recounted the memorable moment of opening the letter. He laughed, recalling: “I said (to myself), ‘that’s not me. Then, I read the letter again and thought, ‘Well, yeah that’s me.’”
In order to all but top the national list, Gomez, a cadet 1st lieutenant at University of North Georgia, had to outrank thousands of others from around the country in the areas of academics, physical fitness, leadership and training performance.
Each fall, in conjunction with their branch selections, all Army ROTC senior cadets from around the country are ranked in the national Order of Merit List. A cadet’s positioning on the list can determine his or her priority in being chosen for the branch or occupational specialty of choice; cadets who are ranked highly on the list typically are given their first choice.
Currently majoring in computer science, Gomez seeks to commission into the U.S. Army’s Cyber Corps.
Gomez — a North Forsyth High School graduate and former member of the school’s JROTC program — said he’s not clear on the specifics of the upcoming job appointment but his understanding is that it would involve “essentially attacking or defending information … I’m really excited to see what it’s going to be like."
Another person who’s excited about all this? Gomez’ former superior: Executive Officer of cadet pre-camp (a training session for juniors), Jacob McAvoy, 23.
“It’s been great getting to train (Gomez), and then getting to work with him,” McAvoy said. “He’s shown a lot of potential and a lot of improvement in the last two years, and I’d definitely say he’s been one of my favorite guys to work with overall.”
Added McAvoy: “It’s mostly his own drive and his own potential (that sets him apart). He’s always sought out ways to make himself better. That’s what’s set him above everyone else. He’s always wanting to improve. His desire to do better has made him great.”
Gomez isn’t the only cadet from University of North Georgia who made it near the top of the national ranking.
At No. 5 on the list is Cadet Lt. Col. Bryton Wenzel of Albany. With more than 5,000 cadets from across the nation ranked by U.S. Army Cadet Command this year, an official with the University of North Georgia felt it extraordinary that two cadets from the same university are ranked among the top five nationally.
“One of only six senior military colleges in the country, UNG has a long-standing national reputation for excellence and has produced more than 50 general officers since its founding,” UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs said. “I am proud that our legacy continues to grow and that this year we have two cadets who placed among the top five in the nation.”
Col. Brent Cummings, professor of military science at UNG, echoed the sentiments.
“These two young men represent the very best of UNG and our Corps of Cadets and we are very proud of their accomplishment,” Cummings said. “Our cadets are achieving tremendous results and I’m very grateful for the support of this great institution and our alumni as we train the future leadership of our Army.”
Gomez still shakes his head when he thinks about that fateful moment — opening that official letter and trying to make sense of it all.
For those hoping to achieve great things (like ranking No. 2 in the nation, for instance) whether in a military career or otherwise, he offered the following advice:
“Seek help,” Gomez said. “I feel like a lot of people have a lot of pride in themselves, but a lot of times you just have no idea what’s going on. Find that subject-matter expert and tell him: ‘Hey, I’d love to know what to do in this scenario …’”
Added Gomez: “You’ll never learn new things if you’re afraid to ask.”