Each year, graduating cadets in Army ROTC programs nationwide consider how and where they want to begin their military careers, submitting their requests for assignments to the U.S. Army Cadet Command.

There’s a better-than-average chance that Collin Brackin, a member of the Shippensburg University ROTC Raider Battalion, will have his request to join the Army’s aviation branch granted. Out of 5,575 seniors across the country to be commissioned next year, Brackin topped the Cadet Command’s merit list and was named its national Cadet of the Year.

“I was completely surprised,” Brackin said of the honor. He and other Raider Battalion members were in field training at Fort Indiantown Gap when he received the news from their commander, Lt. Col. Matthew Sober, who was not as shocked.

“For a lot of our cadets, like any other students, it’s a developmental process. Things come together for some of them earlier on, and for some it’s later in their careers here,” Sober said. “It was very evident to all of us in the cadre [battalion leadership] from day one that Collin had it together in all areas.”

A member of the honors program at Shippensburg, Brackin is an English major with a technical/professional communications minor from New London. This semester, he is a technical writing intern with Volvo Construction Equipment and is organizing the battalion’s 36th annual 5K/10K Run as part of the university’s homecoming activities.

He also has served on Student Senate and chaired its campus and facilities committee, worked as a tutor in the English department’s writing lab and written for The Slate, the student newspaper.

Brackin believes his course of study will benefit him in his career. “Being able to communicate well, both written and orally, is extremely important for an Army officer. I think it also will give me a number of options once my military career is over.”

The Cadet Command assesses a host of criteria to compile its order-of-merit list, including grade point average, physical fitness testing and performance in both college ROTC training and the annual Cadet Leadership Course, a rigorous, month-long camp held each summer in Fort Knox, Ky.

“While the results of the standardized tests they take are important in the rankings, the Army now really emphasizes the cadets’ performance on campus, and it is a good balance between ROTC and student activities,” Sober said. “Among the top cadets, the difference in rankings can be just thousandths of a percentage point. It is extremely competitive.”

Brackin chose Shippensburg because of its ROTC program, yet as a first year student, “I never imagined the opportunities I would have here.”

“I feel very honored to have gotten this recognition, but I think it also reflects on the program here and the development and mentorship I’ve gotten from cadre and my fellow cadets.”

According to Sober, “I like to think that we did a lot to get him here, and I do believe that the instructors he had did play a big role, but honestly I think he could have done it in any setting. You probably could put him on the moon and give him the task of trying to be the top cadet, and he could figure it out. We are enormously proud of him.”

Students from Shippensburg, Wilson College and Penn State Mont Alto comprise the Raider Battalion, which has 102 cadets. The Army ROTC program has cadets at 275 host universities and about 1,000 affiliate and partnership universities.