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Learn by Observing with Jeremiah Gaulding '22


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  • Our Mission: This podcast aims to share leadership stories from our VMI Corps of Cadets and high-profile leaders who visit the Center for Leadership and Ethics (CLE) and VMI.
  • Your Hosts: Derek Pinkham, Conference Project Manager and Emily Coleman, Assistant Conference Planner
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On this remote podcast episode, our co-hosts got to know Cadet Jeremiah Gaulding ’21. Gaulding shares some personal experiences that took place prior to matriculation and those experiences and the Ratline helped him to become mentally resilient. He credits the network of support he had around him including family and his dyke. He talks about the challenges of learning in a remote, separated environment as an engineer and even shares what he’s learned as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Gaulding is a track athlete who plans on serving as a member of the S-5staff starting this fall and to commission in the air force upon graduation.

Our Center's mission is to enhance the VMI citizen-soldier journey with programming that educates, engages, and inspires critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and leader development. The VMI Leader Journey podcast is an outreach program where our guests can share insights from their own leader's journey, and where VMI may have contributed to their personal growth. In this episode, we touched on the following leadership competencies taught in the mandatory course on leadership in organizations and addressed in the publications Leader Journey Booklet: self-understanding, helping others, listening, responding to change, and resiliency.



Transcript for Episode: Learn by Observing with Jeremiah Gaulding'22

JEREMIAH GAULDING ‘21: So VMI's a good representation of the people that you can see in the world. You can see different kinds of leadership, different kinds of people, different kinds of characteristics and characteristic traits, and stuff like that. You look around as you grow as a leader and as a person, you look around and see what you what your style leadership is, what you like to do, and what you don't want to do so you can--a lot of the time at VMI, especially when you first get there, is going to be sitting there and observing. I've had some leadership experience, and I've had some experiences as I've grown up to, you know, lead me in different directions depending on the situation. However, you--when you get to a new place, you don't want to sit there and think you know everything, so the best way to learn is just to observe, just to sit there quietly, speak up when you need to, and just learn because the more you learn, the better you're going to react. 

DEREK PINKHAM: Welcome to the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics Leadership Journey podcast. 

EMILY COLEMAN: This podcast aims to share leadership stories from our VMI corps of cadets and high-profile leaders who visit the Center for Leadership and Ethics and VMI post. We're on this journey with you.

COLEMAN: Hey, I'm Emily Coleman. 

PINKHAM: And I'm Derek Pinkham. We're your hosts of the podcast. 

COLEMAN: Jeremiah Gaulding is currently a third-class cadet studying electric and computer engineering. He hails from Newport News, Virginia, and plans to commission upon graduation. He is an NCAA track athlete and soon to be a member of the S5 [cadet staff position which deals with public relations]. 

PINKHAM: We spoke to Jeremiah remotely from his home and touched on leader topics of self-understanding, helping others, listening, responding to change, and resiliency. 

COLEMAN: And without further delay, we give you third-class Cadet Jeremiah Gaulding. 

PINKHAM: All right, so, um, welcome Jeremiah Gaulding, to the Leader Journey podcast. 

GAULDING: Thank you, thank you. I'm glad to be here. 

PINKHAM: Thanks, go ahead, Emily. 

COLEMAN: Yeah, it's good to meet you. 

GAULDING: It's definitely a changing time, that's for sure. 

COLEMAN: Yeah for sure, so to get started let's have you tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to VMI. 

GAULDING: I study electrical and computer engineering here at VMI. I'm a third classman, hopefully soon second classman, and so I, I got the VMI, you know, pretty typically, I guess. I was deciding between Virginia Tech and VMI, and then I did the open house and the thing that struck me the most that was different about VMI was the small school aspect. My high school was about the same size as VMI, so I got there and I liked the feel. I liked the one-on-one atmosphere that you can get with professors and the small classroom size, and that's what uh, ultimately sold me. I run at VMI full-time, cross-country track, and that's something, that's something different that I could do at VMI as well and not Virginia Tech, so a few things sold me to VMI but what really hit me was the small school and the small classroom size. 

PINKHAM: Right, yeah, it was, it wasn't, you know, the luxury of barracks or...  

GAULDING: No, it wasn't the luxury of barracks. I came in--I came in on scholarship, so I knew, uh, I was I was going to be Air Force one, one way or the other, one way through Tech, the corps there, or the Corps at VMI.  

PINKHAM: Right. 

COLEMAN: What have you gotten involved with at VMI? Are you in any leadership positions in your teams or any clubs? 

GAULDING: Since cross-country and track takes up a bunch of my time, no, I'm just as of right now, I'm just a member, and you know, maybe when I become a senior, I'll be a captain. Who knows? We'll see how that goes, but here recently this year, I recently got accepted to be a regimental S5 sergeant in charge of tours and open--like participating in open house. 

PINKHAM: Yeah, that's awesome. We love the S5, yeah. Yeah, you guys you guys help us out with our conferences a lot. 

GAULDING: For sure. I’ll be work--I’ll be working. I’ll be working with you all a lot then. 

PINKHAM: Good, good. 

COLEMAN: Tell us about moving through the Rat Line and becoming a cadet and kind of how your aspect of leadership has changed between you being able to go through the Rat Line and then to what it's molded you into now. 

GAULDING: So, my experience with the Rat Line is probably a little different than everyone else's because I was an athlete and I had, you know--I get out of certain things. I participate in some, get out of others because of competition and stuff like that, but my specific aspect of the Rat Line was--I mean, it was a wake-up call. It was an entrance to college like no other, and I'm okay with that. Like, I'm sure anyone who wants to come to VMI will be okay with that, and that's just one thing to keep in mind if people are looking to come is just be ready for whatever's going to be thrown at you. Some stuff is going to be easier for others--than other like you know everyone has their own niche. The thing that challenged me most in the Rat Line was definitely the mental aspect. It wasn't, per se, the physical aspect. The physical aspect that can be worked out, built up, and that's fine. I'm a runner, you know. I come with certain benefits there when it comes to running and stuff like that especially, but the thing that challenged me most was the mental aspect, and I think personally I would have gotten this wherever I--wherever I went. I'm a homebody truly, through and through. I was born and raised in this house with my Mom and that was it, so leaving for college, I think, was a big shock for me, and so a week before I came, yeah, the week before I matriculated and came to VMI, my brother passed. Looking back on it, like when I came home again for Christmas for the first time as a freshman, I don't think looking back on it I was like why did I still go, like why, why didn't I like just stay home for a while and work out another plan, but I just, you know, I put my head down for the time being, and it was a grief. It was like, push through now, grieve later kind of situation for me, so I think those are two big things I like to touch on, yeah, the mental aspect and just being able to talk with people, especially the dyke system because my dyke Bobby--Bobby really helped me out through things along with--along with Catherine [Capt. Catherine Roy, Center communications and marketing specialist] and my host family and stuff like that, so it was definitely a challenging time. 

PINKHAM: Right, the host family program is--is really great part of VMI. Um, I've participated in it in the past, and--and it's just nice. It's a good introduction for everybody. 

COLEMAN: Yeah and it's a good relief for rats. They get to go enjoy a homemade meal, rest, get away from things, so yeah so, I'm really sorry about your brother, Jeremiah. That had to have been tough. 

GAULDING: Yeah, a lot of people actually, you know a lot of people at VMI actually have no idea that my brother died. My Dad actually passed, too, when I was 12. 

COLEMAN: So how do you carry that with you throughout, you know, your time at VMI. I'm sure that it has, I don't know maybe, had some sort of part in mental toughness and, you know, helping you get through. 

GALUDING: One thing specifically that I've learned as I've grown up and through my life especially at VMI is be grateful for what you have--like not necessarily what you want, but what you have. There are certain things that you can still carry with you, you know you carry your attitude, your behavior and your personality throughout the day and that’s what you can control, how you react to situations, if you take them with a grain of salt and move on with a smile or you just, you know, get overwhelmed and overcome by things, and at times it's okay to be, you know, to take in everything and, like, really think through it and be a little overwhelmed, but it's how you react to the situations that really build you up. 

COLEMAN: Right. I love that--that was great. So how are you--being in track by the way--how are you managing this virtual experience during this crisis that we're having, I mean not only with track--I mean with sports, but just with your school work and things like that and staying motivated. I'm asking cadets how they're staying motivated during this time. 

GAULDING: It's tough. It is definitely tough, but the thing that I--that I’m looking at right now is everyone's going through it, everyone's going through the time of how do I keep going, how do I, you know, progress stuff and so with running and stuff it. I have a few buddies--because I ran in high school, I have a few buddies that I talk to and I run with, so we get together and we go on runs and like, and that's my team at the moment. My team is the people that are here with me, you know, to help train because it's tough to run alone, along with like, you know, I mean football, basketball, all the other sports and stuff, it's hard to go practice alone and actually get a good workout in. 

PINKHAM: That's--that's actually true. I've run a few marathons and have had--had people to train with, uh, otherwise, I don’t know that I would have done it. Yeah, it's difficult. 

GAULDING: And so, with academics, um, same thing goes there. I talked to my buddies from VMI about what's going on. We have a good communication group, chat and stuff, and we ask each other questions, you know, find out more information--may about just be like what I do on this assignment, like how do I get this done. A big thing is a lot of my curriculum as an engineering, as an electrical computer engineer, is hands-on material. It is hands-on learning, and that's very tough from home. You have your classes where you can just, you know, have formulas and stuff, and know how to do things. However, but with my classes in electrical and computer engineering, it's different. So how we've done it, there's a pipeline for us to order parts and stuff. We had a final project to build a laser communication device, actually, where you can transmit a laser beam and across the laser beam as a song. Stuff like that--so like, no noise is coming out until like the receipt, like the speaker, so I've--I actually, me and my two partners, we shot a laser 170 feet, and you could hear a song on the other side like you transmit like audio through it, and you can like, you know, that's your little secret message and stuff like that, and you can transmit stuff. 

COLEMAN: Oh, my goodness. That sounds intense. 

GAULDING: We had to do that from home, so we ordered parts, and we put it together, and we were able to transmit it, so it was all good--fine and dandy and stuff, but it's just stuff like that. You got to figure out how to do it. Some things like that turn into a more real-life application. There's curveballs in the path. You thought when you got the project--it was our final project for the end of the semester. We got it from the start of the semester. We knew what we had to do, and we were planning it and stuff throughout, and then a huge wrench was thrown in and say, hey, you're going to go home for spring break and, uh, not come back. 

COLEMAN: I know. That is a weird feeling.  

GAULDING: And another tough thing was they were said take stuff for a while. They didn't say like how long you might be gone or indefinitely, so that's also another thing. 

PINKHAM: Right, right. 

COLEMAN: I'm glad that you can have some perseverance and some grit to push through that, and hopefully, VMI has been an experience that is just continuing to help you grow, and it's kind of a test of your mentality, I guess. 

GAULDING: It is, and it's also your test on to be able to rely on others, yourself, and the people that you've like, you know, grip around, and you rely on the most. 

GAULDING: Right that. What my experiences have made me grow up quick because I've had my own lawn business since I was 12 years old. 


GAULDING: I grew up pushing a mower around the neighborhood, cutting grass. I still—like, so here's the thing: being home for coronavirus, I didn't think I was going to ever cut grass again or, like, as much as I used to, but my summer internship got canceled, and I was like, well, looks like I'm getting back on the mower.  

COLEMAN: You know what you'll be doing.  

GAULDING: I've done, I manage, about 12 yards now right now currently, and I'm not looking for more because I was like, you know, what else can I do to replace a 40-hour summer internship, so I started delivering pizzas at Domino's. 

COLEMAN: Oh, sweet. Well, that's great. I mean you're being--you're staying involved. 

GAULDING: Yeah, I'm completely busy.  

COLEMAN: Yeah, you're keeping yourself going, which is great because I, you know, people can get in the mindset for I have all this time, now I can just relax and push everything off and procrastinate, not do anything, and I think that especially with VMI, since when you all are on post, your time is so limited for yourself that is probably a huge transition that a lot of cadets are facing right now, trying to figure out how to manage their time effectively and get all their work done, not procrastinate. I mean honestly--I have had that struggle too because I'm no longer in an office, I'm at home, and I have classes to take, and I have work to do, and yeah, so keeping yourself busy and in that--in that mindset of just keep going, pushing through, find something to do is really, really helpful. 

GAULDING: Sometimes all you need to do is put on a pair of shoes and sit at a table and makes you feel like, you're being like, you know, like you're in the zone. You've got a pair of shoes on. That means you're working, yeah, so. 

COLEMAN: Yeah, you're productive. .

GAULDING: Instead of just chilling back in sweatpants. It's nice to, you know, get dressed. 

PINKHAM: Right, so make your bed. 

GAULDING: Right, yeah, make your bed every morning. 


COLEMAN: What can you appreciate more from VMI during this time? Is there anything that you're like that, you learned at VMI and you're like, oh man, I'm so glad that, you know, this is the way that they were doing things, and things that you’ve taken back with you?  

GAULDING: Number one is like--a more rigid schedule, you know, I implemented in high school. You'd have your own schedule laid out for you, and at VMI, you're so used to managing your time well if you want to succeed and taking that to home has been rather easy because currently, you know, I'm working. I'm working a full-time job because I'm working 30 hours a week at Domino's, doing my yard business, and still managing school. So you learn to fit in what you can when you can, and that really helps you succeed. 

PINKHAM: We hear that from others, too. Like it's getting to where you need to be on time in a regimented way will help you when you're not in that situation. I mean, I guess, you could take it to the other extreme and, you know, sleep till noon if you--if you didn't have these other things to do, but yeah, I totally get that. 

COLEMAN: I'm sure you--all your brother rats and stuff, you all rely on each other more heavily maybe during this time, or you know, that you have that certain relationship with them. Like you said, you're not the only one going through it, so that you might find some comfort, motivation in that as well. 

GAULDING: Oh, for sure, absolutely, no, and so it's the same thing with the Rat Line, knowing you may look at it, be like, wow, this is really hard. However, you look around and see everybody else is going through the same thing or very similar things, and right now, it's not too different as a world, as globally, we're all feeling the impact from it, whether it's through job loss, whether it's doing, like getting sick, it's--or just the adjustment of working from home and working from a remote location, not being around people, and my Air Force commander put it a good way. It shouldn't be called social distancing. It should be called physical distancing because we were physically away, but we need to be socially involved in interacting with each other in order to stay sane as a, you know, as a human race, especially, especially the more outgoing and extroverted people. They need that social connection. 

PINKHAM: Right, yeah, that's why I’m--I'm doing just fine. 

COLEMAN: That's why Derek has made no changes to his lifestyle. 

COLEMAN: That is a great way to put it. We do need to be, uh, socially involved with each other. It does keep you sane, so that's great.  

GAULDING: This time is changing for everyone. No one's going to know what's going on exactly. You know, if you told me six months ago I'd be doing what I am now, I tell you no way. They're--you're crazy, so this can apply to VMI as a whole too, be ready for change. Be ready for what can come, I mean, seriously.  

COLEMAN: Yeah, absolutely, have some adaptability. So what did leadership mean to you before you got to VMI, and what does it mean for you now? 

GAULDING: So, I've heard this before, and it's a good way of looking at things. A good leader can turn around and say to people “follow me,” and they'll follow because they respect the person that's in front of them. They respect what--how they view things and how they run things, and that, that's a good judge of leadership right there. 


GAULDING: So VMI is a good representation of the people that you--you can see in the world. You can see different kinds of leadership, different kind of people, different kinds of characteristics and characteristic traits, and stuff like that. You look around as you grow as a leader and as a person. You look around and see what you--what your style leadership is, what you like to do and what you don't want to do, so you can a lot of the time--at VMI, especially when you first get there, is going to be sitting there and observing. I've had some leadership experience, and I've had some experiences as I've grown up to, you know, lead me in different directions depending on the situation. However, you--when you get to a new place, you don't want to sit there and think you know everything. So the best way to learn is just to observe, just to sit there quietly, speak up when you need to, and just learn because the more you learn, the better you're going to react. 

COLEMAN: Absolutely, yep, that was great. So Jeremiah, what are your plans for when you graduate? Do you know what you want to do at this point, or are you still trying to figure things out? 

GAULDING: So, from high school, I came in on a four-year Air Force scholarship from high school and from that I have a service commitment of four years active duty and four years Reserves, and I can really do anything, anything can change. I might just do the minimum, who knows, you know, or I could do the maximum. Anything can change really quickly, and I'm-I'm ready for whatever gets thrown my way and hopefully, you know, maybe instead of the Air Force, Space Force will give me the chance. That's a real thing, so--

COLEMAN: Yeah, absolutely. 

PINKHAM: Right. We'll see how that goes. 

COLEMAN: Great. 

GAULDING: Yeah, no. I will be commissioning. I will be serving here in a few years so …  

COLEMAN: That's awesome. 

PINKHAM: Yeah, well, do we have any more? 

COLEMAN: I think that's--that's been pretty much a wrap.  

COLEMAN: I'm good if you're good. 

PINKHAM: Yeah, yeah, really appreciate you, uh, coming on and spending a little time with us, bearing with us here and there.  

COLEMAN: the Center for Leadership and Ethics would like to thank the following Cadet Caleb Minus class of '20 for the intro and backing music find more of his musical stylings on his Instagram page @mynusofficial that's at m-y-n-u-s official Colonel David Gray United States Army retired director of the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics and of course as always our podcast guests
PINKHAM: Find this podcast and other CLE programming information on the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics website and try our YouTube channel. Follow the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics on FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn, and Instagram accounts. See you next episode of the journey. Thanks for tuning in.

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