Devoted To The Goal
by U.S. Army Cadet Command, Sarah Windmueller
February 21, 2023
As a college athlete, standout student, and
one of the first Army ROTC Cadets from Benedict College to branch
aviation in over 30 years, Corey Witter knows he wouldn’t be where
he is today without family.
February 13, 2023 -
Corey Witter, an Army ROTC Cadet, is currently an MSIV Cadet
at Benedict College in South Carolina. He lost his mother
when he was 14-years-old with his older brother becoming his
legal guardian and encouraging him to remain devoted to his
future goals. He begins his Army training after graduation
and commissioning in the spring. (Image created by USA
Patriotism! from photo courtesy of Corey Witter.)
After losing his mother to breast cancer at
the age of 14, Witter’s older brother, Jahleel, stepped in as his
legal guardian, giving Witter the assurance and guidance he needed
to focus on accomplishing his goals and join the military.
“No matter what you go through there’s a lot you can do even with
limited opportunities.” Witter said. “You have to make the most of
what’s been handed to you and then go from there. It always works
From the get-go, Witter’s family determined their
strength would not be sidetracked by hardship – and they certainly
experienced their fair share of obstacles.
mom, battled chronic illness her entire life, including diabetes,
heart problems and kidney issues. She was unable to work because of
her health limitations.
Seeking family support, Sandra moved
herself and her two boys from Beaufort, South Carolina to Kansas in
2002 where her younger sister, the boys’ aunt, was located.
For nine years they lived together with their aunt’s family until
her death in 2011.
“We moved back to Beaufort because my aunt
passed away from breast cancer,” Witter said.
loss of her sister, Sandra took a realistic look at her illness
battles and knew a move back to Beaufort had to happen. It was a
difficult transition for the boys, but they needed to be close to
“She’d be in and out of the hospital from all of the
things she had, and she had so many different things going on
health-wise,” Jahleel said.
It wasn’t long after their move
home to Beaufort that the family received news that Sandra had
She began treatment immediately.
Witter, who was 12 at the time, remembers his mom’s positive outlook
regarding the internal battle her body was fighting.
though you could see she was sick, you would never know with how she
acted,” Witter said. “She was probably one of the strongest people I
have ever seen in my life as far as trying to be positive even when
everything around you isn’t positive.”
Jahleel saw his mom’s
strength as well, but being six years older and involved in her
daily healthcare, he remembers a much different side of the story.
“She told me something along the lines of, ‘I’m not going to
be here forever, so you’ve got to make sure that you look out for
your brother. All of the things that you know, I need you to be able
to do when I’m gone because you’re all I have and I want you to be
there for your brother,’” Jahleel said.
As time progressed,
Sandra’s cancer went terminal.
Witter recalls her
continuously sunny outlook, even as time was running out.
“After she stopped chemo, we had to basically accept that it was
going to happen. It wasn’t like when somebody all of the sudden
passes away, this was different in that you knew it was coming for
months in advance.”
Naturally quiet, Witter didn’t broadcast
his emotions or allow others to know what was happening at home.
“When I was at school, I didn’t necessarily talk about anything
that was going on,” Witter said. “Maybe one or two people knew, but
nobody else really knew what was happening.”
passed away October 30, 2014 with her boys at her side.
boys were just 20 and 14-years-old.
Life happened quickly,
and both boys had to step up to the plate.
Jahleel took on a
full-time job and became Corey’s legal guardian.
“I told him
I would do what I can to make sure everything was good, and that’s
what I did,” Jahleel said.
“He focused on his grades and
school, and I focused on taking care of everything.”
seized this opportunity and threw himself into excelling in his
studies and extracurricular activities. On top of being a straight-A
student, he played football, basketball and track.
being occupied. I’m not really the type of person that likes to sit
around,” Witter said. “When I don’t do a lot, it just feels like
something is missing or like I should be doing something else.”
While balancing his activities, Witter also began looking ahead
to life after high school. The military was something he’d been
interested in and was “always towards the top of the list” when it
came to future careers.
His sophomore year, he tested the
water by joining his high school’s Air Force JROTC program.
“I signed up just to see what it was like – like a test.” he said.
“I stayed in because I ended up liking the structure and the vibe
and it felt like it fit me.”
The program pushed Witter out of
his reserved shell and presented leadership opportunities that
continued to grow his interest in joining the military.
was always devoted to the goal. It’s one of the things that stands
out even today. He’s more focused,” Jahleel said.
graduating from Beaufort High School in 2018, Witter made the
decision to attend Benedict College, a historically black college
(HBCU), on a full academic scholarship. He also joined the school’s
track team as a decathlete.
He focused on his studies and
athletics until fate stepped in one morning during track practice.
Anthony Robertson is the Benedict College ROTC Coordinator, he’s
also an Army ROTC alumnus of Benedict College. He noticed Witter and
his teammates warming up and walked over to speak with them about
the ROTC program.
“He came up to me and a couple other people
one day, and I was listening, but it was going in one ear and out
the other. I wasn’t really interested whatsoever,” Witter said.
Robertson confirms that Witter’s attention seemed elsewhere.
But, to his surprise, Witter showed up outside his office a few
“He said, ‘You’re in charge of ROTC?’ and I
said, ‘Yes, I am,’ and he said, ‘I would like to join,’” Robertson
After meeting Robertson that morning on the track
field, he was convinced ROTC wasn’t for him, but fate began to work
their way into his daily life.
“I started thinking about what
I was going to do after I graduated college and then I started
seeing Cadets walking around campus in their uniforms,” Witter said.
He stopped some of the Cadets to talk about the program and
“I just felt like it was a good
opportunity; it would be stable income – a guaranteed job,” he said.
Witter found himself in Robertson’s office just days later
signing up to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
“The rest is history. He was serious, he was all the
way locked in,” Robertson said. “He was a great athlete, he was a
great student, his GPA was high, he was a Campus Cadet with the
Campus Police Department, and so the bench point for greatness
started right then.”
Witter cut his hair, enlisted in the
Army National Guard, and took a semester off to attend Basic
Advanced Individual Training.
Back from training and
officially enrolled in Army ROTC, Witter began to look at his future
options. Already a Criminal Justice major, he thought joining the
Military Intelligence branch would partner well with his current
studies…until he was introduced to helicopters.
“We had a
brief on aviation that was really interesting and that changed my
whole mindset about what I wanted to do,” Witter said.
Robertson also pushed Witter to think about pursuing the aviation
branch and flying helicopters.
February 13, 2023 - Corey Witter, an Army ROTC MSIV Cadet at Benedict College branched
in aviation sits in an Army helicopter at an undisclosed
location. He begins his training after graduation and commissioning in the spring.
(Image created by USA Patriotism! from photo courtesy of Corey Witter.)
"I encouraged him to do some
research on it, and I also encouraged him to research the percentage
of African Americans who fly helicopters,” Robertson said.
the 144 Army ROTC Cadets who branched aviation and will commission
this year, only six were African American.
After his research
and decision to branch aviation, Witter began studying for the
Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT).
The SIFT is
a measure of multiple aptitudes, focusing mainly on S.T.E.M.
The SIFT is the first hurdle Witter had to cross to qualify for
aviation service. Weeks of studying led to the exam day, and then
Witter had to wait.
“After studying and testing he came back
with the highest score the ROTC program had ever seen,” Robertson
said. “He did everything else right in the ROTC program, so he’s
“I knew Corey had what it takes to be
great…He fits everything that embodies being a college student, an
ROTC student, he serves in the national guard,” Robertson adds.
“He’s a shining example, who I encourage students to pattern
Witter’s future was confirmed this past
fall when he was selected for aviation. He’ll be heading to Ft.
Rucker, Alabama to learn how to fly Chinook helicopters after
“There’s a lot of things you can do in
military, but I feel like flying is one of the biggest things that
you can do and it’s one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve seen
so far and one of the most interesting,” he said.
finds the civilian career options for aviators appealing as he plans
to one day fly airplanes for a major airline.
Even as Witter
knocks out goals toward his future, his brother, Jahleel, is still
very present in his life.
“He comes first that’s just how it
is,” Jahleel said. “When I made the promise to my mom that I would
take care of him, I meant that on all aspects of anything that I
could possibly do to make things better or his life easier, it’s
what I do.”
Witter took his brother’s promise to heart, and
it resonates with him today, remaining a prime focus for his
leadership intentions as a future officer in the Army.
putting his life on pause, it was a really big sacrifice for me, and
that’s what drives me,” Witter said. “I’m not an aggressive leader
but having the experiences that I do – most people haven’t had their
parents die – so carrying that with me will help me understand how
to treat people and understand their experiences.”
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