Passionate about educating and training future Army leaders, Maj. Jesus Cruz takes the helm of Cal State Fullerton’s ROTC program this summer in his new role as chair and professor of military science. Cruz succeeds Lt. Col. Mark Waters, who now serves as deputy provost marshal at the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
With 30 U.S. decorations and badges to date and 17 years of military service overall — including a four-year post as recruiting operations officer and assistant professor of military science at the University of Hawaii — Cruz is eager to begin his three-year assignment with the Titan Battalion.
He currently is completing his doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University, and holds a master of public administration degree and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Guam.
What inspired you to join the Army?
I was inspired by the movie “Braveheart,” in which William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, leads his countrymen into battle to fight for Scotland’s independence. I remember getting goosebumps and thinking to myself that’s exactly what I want to do.… I want to lead people.
Almost two decades later, here I am, a major in the Army leading one of the top military science programs on the West Coast.
What has been your most memorable service experience to date?
During my first deployment to Iraq, between 2004-05, I executed civil affairs missions that allowed me to help the local education system. We partnered with schools here in America to provide backpacks and school supplies to underprivileged children in Baghdad. We also helped refurbish school buildings, upgrade and repair utilities like power and water, and purchase school equipment and furniture.
As part of our effort, we held a teacher symposium for Iraqi teachers at Baghdad University. Led by U.S. teachers who were deployed in the area, the seminars covered topics such as curriculum development, classroom management, learning styles, community-school partnerships and school administration. The entire deployment was extremely rewarding.
Can you describe your role at Cal State Fullerton?
My role as chair and professor of military science is to serve as the commander, per se, of the Cal State Fullerton Army ROTC Battalion consisting of 120+ cadets, 14 cadre and staff members. I am responsible for managing the operating budget and the awarding of $1.5 million in scholarship funds. I lead a team responsible for recruiting, training, developing and mentoring future Army officers.
But I think my role is much deeper than that: I feel like I am in a position to give back to the Army by producing leaders who are not just tactically and technically proficient, but compassionate and ethical as well. I have always placed an extremely high value on emotional intelligence and charismatic leadership — these qualities have served me well during my 17 years in the Army, and I would like to use my experiences to help mold our cadets into future Army officers with similar influences.
I also am the senior military representative for the Fullerton community.
What are some of your goals for the ROTC program?
My immediate goal is to grow the program. I believe there are many more students at CSUF with a propensity to serve and a desire for a rewarding profession: we offer both these things. In addition, we have Army scholarships that cover 100 percent tuition and provide many more benefits.
I also would like to give back to the CSUF community through partnerships, and I hope to lead the ROTC program to compete for the General Douglas MacArthur award, which recognizes the top Army ROTC programs in the nation.