After 22 years serving in the U.S. Army, Todd Schmidt has learned countless lessons about life and leadership.
But above anything else, he’s learned that no soldier works alone.
“It’s not the rank of the soldier that matters, it’s that all of the accomplishments and awards and all that goes into recognizing service members and their service to their country, it’s always a team effort,” he said. “There’s no such thing as strictly individual accomplishment; it’s all how individuals achieve their goals and objectives with the team around them.”
Schmidt, a Center Grove area native, credits all of the other mentors, officers and fellow soldiers who have served next to him for his success in his career. Currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army, he is being promoted to full colonel by the end of this year.
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The promotion has given him the opportunity to reflect on the core nature of military service.
“Any time an officer gets a promotion, it’s really something that’s accomplished as part of a team — soldiers who help make the soldier successful, the non-commissioned officers who mentored and helped develop the officer, his peers and superiors who helped guide him along the way,” he said. “The friendship, mentorship and guidance of 22 years worth of fellow soldiers is recognized in my promotion.”
Todd Schmidt joined ROTC while in college at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and has served as an officer on active duty ever since he graduated.
He has served multiple tours overseas, including in Afghanistan, Qatar and Kuwait. When Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, Schmidt served in the Pentagon on his immediate staff.
Up until May 2016, he was the commander of the 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery. Only about 10 percent of approximately 10,000 lieutenant colonels in the Army are given that opportunity.
He was in charge of about 550 soldiers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Under Schmidt’s watch, they were trained and deployed to the Middle East.
The different leadership opportunities have given him the chance to more fully realize what members of the military, not just the Army but all branches, contribute through their service.
“It’s given me tremendous perspective on what selfless service is, not on my part so much, but what I see in our soldiers,” he said. “For me to be able to work with them in positions of leadership has been a tremendous honor and privilege, and it’s something that’s kept me humble.”
While he was battalion commander, Schmidt was chosen to attend the U.S. Army War College, and that led him to the University of Kansas to complete his doctorate in political science.
“I’m hoping it means the Army sees that I still have the potential to serve and lead,” he said.
He is writing his dissertation on how communities of experts in government can influence information, discussion and policy development; how those communities can constrain elite decision makers, such as the president, Schmidt said.
“If you have too many experts in one area, it can weigh decisions in a way that can potentially be sub-optimal, and that can have ramifications and implications for national security,” he said. “I see more and more involvement of active-duty and veterans in government bureaucracy, and I’m curious what kind of implications come out of that.”
Schmidt also is being vetted and looked at for brigade command, the next level of command above battalion.
“It’s a really tough cut, so my family and I will just have our fingers crossed and see what happens. Regardless, I think I still have the energy and the potential to serve for 30 years,” he said.