Merritt named Distinguished Military Graduate

A Henderson State University ROTC cadet has received one of the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s highest honors.

Kyle Merritt, a senior physics major, was named a Distinguished Military Graduate, placing him in an elite group of cadets honored this year by the command.

“This means Kyle was ranked in the top 20 percent in the United States for his 2016 commissioning year group,” said Capt. Correy Retzloff, instructor of military science. “He competed against 270 host schools, including Ivy League institutions, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Notre Dame.”

To qualify for selection, a cadet must be named a Distinguished Military Student by his or her professor of military science and maintain a 3.0 grade point average. The cadet must also successfully complete the Cadet Leadership Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, demonstrate outstanding potential to serve as a commissioned officer, and rank among the top 20 percent of all cadets on the National Order of Merit List.

Merritt serves as the cadet commander for both Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities.

“Kyle’s innate leadership has been integral to the success of Henderson ROTC and led to him representing the Bear Battalion at the Air Assault School in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he earned his Air Assault Wings in 2014,” Retzloff said.

Merritt will graduate in May 2016 and is pursuing an active duty commission. He plans to make a career in the military and hopes to enter the Engineer Corps.

“Engineer is one of the few combat branches that has a lot of transitions,” he said. “If I decide to eventually leave the military, I can use those skills in the civilian world.”

Merritt said he is glad he entered ROTC during his freshman year at Henderson.  He was awarded a four-year National Line Scholarship to join the program.

“ROTC develops you, and you have four years to improve your basic skills and leadership potential,” he said. “It will fill up your schedule, but it is definitely worth it. Just be prepared to work hard.”

Merritt is an Eagle Scout who graduated from Deer Park High School near Houston in 2012. He excelled academically and set two school swimming records while serving as team captain during his junior and senior years.

He was recruited to swim and dive at Henderson. He eventually left the team to dedicate more time to ROTC.

Merritt has served as a team leader, a squad leader, and a platoon sergeant leading other cadets in physical training, weekly labs, and leadership training exercises.