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December 09, 2011

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Challenge cadet’s warrior father is her inspiration

Whenever one cadet attending the Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy for at-risk youth felt herself giving up during the 22-week course, she sought strength from her warrior father.
PHOTO: Wisconsin Challenge Academy Cadet Caitlin Cornell, second from left, stands in front of the entrance sign at Fort McCoy’s Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy. Photo by Tom Michele
Wisconsin Challenge Academy Cadet Caitlin Cornell, second from left, stands in front of the entrance sign at Fort McCoy’s Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy. Along with Cornell are, from left, Academy Commandant Command Sgt. Major M. Kevin Dubois, Challenge Academy Assistant Director Peter Blum, and NCO Academy 1st Sgt. David White.
(Photo by Tom Michele)
PHOTO: Wisconsin Challenge Academy Cadet Caitlin Cornell touches one of the insignias on the dress uniform of her father, Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell. Photo by Tom Michele
Wisconsin Challenge Academy Cadet Caitlin Cornell touches one of the insignias on the dress uniform of her father, Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell, on display at the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort McCoy. Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois, accompanied her. (Photo by Tom Michele)

Cadet Caitlin Cornell, who will graduate Dec. 17 with academic honors as a cadet first class, platoon leader, and with a National Physical Fitness Patch, said she thought of her father, Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell, when she first heard of the program.

Staff Sgt. Cornell was an Army Reserve Soldier serving in Iraq in 2004 when he was killed in action.

The Fort McCoy Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy was named after him in 2007.

Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois said Staff Sgt. Cornell’s legacy was not to focus on his achievements, but rather on the character that shaped his life and continues to have a strong impact on many people, including his daughter, Caitlin.

Dubois, the NCO Academy commandant, served for five months with Staff Sgt. Cornell in Iraq.

During her time at Fort McCoy, Dubois gave Cadet Cornell a tour of the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy and showed her mementoes of her father’s time serving his country.

Because of her outstanding attitude, Dubois also asked Cornell to be the graduation speaker for the Dec. 16 Warrior Leader Course (WLC) and share her inspirational story with the WLC students.

After graduation, Cadet Cornell plans to return to high school to receive her high school diploma and then plans to attend college to study nursing. The military as a possible career “is a thought that’s always been in the back of my mind,” she said.
Keeping a goal in mind will help guide future cadets’ success, Cornell said.

Her motto, which helped her get through physical training, was, “It will always end.”

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