Cadet Bridger Johnson isn’t taking it easy for his final semester at Virginia Tech.
Johnson, a senior from Fredericksburg, Virginia, majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with in a minor in leadership from the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Rice Center for Leader Development, is preparing to commission into the U.S. Army as an infantry officer, one of the most competitive branches of the service.
He and his fiancée, Ellice Sisson, also a senior cadet from Fredericksburg, Virginia, majoring in psychology in the College of Science, are planning a May wedding.
And he is the spring regimental commander for the Corps of Cadets, the highest position a cadet can hold and responsible for overseeing the regiment of more than 1,000 students.
“Easy” isn’t in his nature.
Last spring, Johnson served as the regimental command sergeant major, the highest-ranking junior cadet. He was responsible for the professional development of more than 1,000 cadets and the training of more than 300 first-year cadets. It was a role he enjoyed and excelled in and it fit with his philosophy of leadership through serving others.
Johnson came to Virginia Tech, one of the six congressionally designated senior military colleges, because of the corps and the university’s tradition of service.
"I’ve been fortunate in the gifts I have been given,” he said. “In return, I want to serve others so they can find the best in themselves.”
He said he may pursue a law degree in the future because, “I want to help others through confusing and challenging times.”
A dean’s list student, Johnson is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society and the Scabbard and Blade society. He is recipient of an Army ROTC scholarship and a corps’ Emerging Leader Scholarship.
In November, he received a Virginia Tech Division of Student Affairs’ Aspire! Award for Self-Understanding and Integrity.
“Cadet Johnson is dedicated to the mission of the corps and willing to put time and energy into setting a positive example for other cadets to follow,” said Mike Schoka, who served as the fall regimental commander and graduated in December with a degree in mathematics from the College of Science and a minor in leadership. “He is a model of strong work ethic and the pursuit of excellence. I have full confidence that he will lead the corps honorably and with sound judgment.”
As he leads, Johnson can draw on experiences from around the globe.
In 2015, he participated in a summer cultural immersion program in Slovenia, where he was integrated into the Slovenian military for a month.
This past summer, through the corps’ Global Scholar Program, he was as one of 12 cadets who completed an in-depth study of the Allied Invasion of 1944 and then travelled to Normandy, France, to D-Day sites. While there, he said he developed an appreciation for not only the functional challenges of leadership, but the emotional challenges as well.
“I tried to picture myself landing on the cold, combative beaches or jumping into the dark night with the paratroopers,” he said. “If I am ever faced with the test of leadership in combat, I will remember the importance of staying calm and keeping my soldiers calm in the face of danger and fear.”
For the second half of his summer, Johnson was selected by Army ROTC Cadet Command for a highly competitive judge advocate general internship. Through it, he had a privileged view of what it is like to be a leader in his future professional field.
Johnson said his advice to others is simple: “Have a plan in life. Do your best to work hard and stay focused, but take time to enjoy the community around you. They help you learn and grow.”