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Top CSUF Army ROTC Cadet Wants to Save Lives
Peers chose James Griffith as the cadet who they would want in charge if faced with a life-or-death situation in war.

Story by Mimi Ko Cruz

June 15, 2006 :: No. 275

James A. Griffith kept getting passed over for promotions at a luxury department store where he worked as a mid-level manager, so he decided it was time to go to college and hone his leadership skills.

He was taking classes at Orange Coast College when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and war broke out in the Middle East. That's when his educational aspirations changed course.

Griffith transferred to Cal State Fullerton in 2002 as a political science major and considered joining the military.

"After 9-11 and after the U.S. got involved in Afghanistan and then Iraq, I remember I kept seeing the names of dead privates scroll on the TV," he said. "That was the point when I decided I wanted to save men and bring them home."

He joined CSUF's Army ROTC in 2004 and graduated this month with a bachelor's degree in political science. Last month, Griffith completed the ROTC program as the top cadet and received his second lieutenant commission. He now is at Fort Lewis in Washington, where he is continuing his Army training before heading to Fort Benning in Georgia for a basic officer leadership course and then more training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. On Jan. 30, 2007, he will be heading to his permanent station as a military police officer in Fort Bragg, N.C. until he gets orders to deploy.

As the No. 1 cadet at CSUF, Griffith received a George C. Marshall Award and an Omar Bradley Award. In addition, his peers chose him as the cadet who they would want in charge if faced with a life or death situation in war. The honor, a National Sojourner Award, came with a saber statue and a 9mm Beretta pistol.

"James is a perfect example of an inspiring, successful Army officer because he knows what it takes to be a successful leader," said Lt. Col. Billy Howard, coordinator of CSUF's military science program. "As the cadet battalion commander during the spring semester, he clearly demonstrated his ability to command, direct and lead by example. James has unlimited potential to achieve the highest ranks in the military."   

Griffith, 29, who is engaged to his high school sweetheart, said he hopes to work as an Army police officer for 20 years before retiring and pursuing a staff job with an elected official in Congress.

"I would enjoy writing legislation," Griffith said, adding that those who want to get ahead in their jobs and realize their dreams should consider college.

"From my own personal experience, I think that if you don't have higher education, you reach a ceiling that you can no longer get up and over in any career," he said. "I think everybody should try to go to school. I started at Antelope Valley College in 1993 and kept quitting so I know it's hard to keep plugging away, but don't get discouraged. If you keep it up, you'll achieve your goals."

Media Contacts:

Billy Howard, Military Science, 657-278-5768 or
Mimi Ko Cruz, Public Affairs,  657-278-7586 or

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