Nov. 20, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
Gamecock fans will already be on their feet prior to kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium for Saturday's final home game of the season against South Alabama, but perhaps they will stand at attention as Major General Bradley Becker will be the celebrity starter to lead the "Game-Cocks" cheer.
"I'm a little nervous," Becker said. "I was really honored to be asked. We play tough at Williams-Brice Stadium, and it's a huge responsibility to get the fans fired up before the game. That's a responsibility I take very seriously."
Becker took command of the Army Training Center at Fort Jackson in August of 2013, and although he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis in 1986 and a master's degree from Auburn, he is a huge Gamecock fan.
"I'm a season ticket holder," Becker said after swearing-in some new U.S. Army recruits at Tuesday's South Carolina men's basketball game. "When I got here, the university reached out to us. They have been so good to our soldiers that it was easy to become a big fan. Coach (Ray) Tanner took me around to all of the facilities, and I met all of the coaches."
When Becker first arrived at Fort Jackson, which is the largest initial military training installation in the United States Army, he wanted to develop a strategic plan based on teamwork, so he reached out to men's basketball coach Frank Martin.
"He came and spoke to our team leaders about teamwork because nobody knows that better than a coach," Becker said. "He gave the most wonderful talk about team-building and from that time on, I told myself that this is someone I have to stay plugged into."
"They roll out the red carpet with a great halftime show, the giant flag, the fireworks show and all the tickets for our service men and women. It shows our soldiers and our family members how much this community and this university care about them."
During his career, Becker has had several tours in Iraq and has served overseas in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, in Germany and in Korea. He has earned numerous awards and decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal. While being away from loved ones may be one of the most difficult aspects of serving in the military, Becker feels he currently has the greatest job in the world.
"We train over half of the new soldiers coming into the United States Army," Becker said. "Just last year alone, I saw 45,000 brand new soldiers come through Fort Jackson. I had an opportunity, through my drill sergeants and through my subordinate leaders, to shape their lives and turn them into soldiers. I've gone out and done P.T. with them and gone out to the range to shoot with them. It keeps you young."
Becker and his wife, Sherri, have two sons. They came to Fort Jackson from Suffolk, Virginia, where he served as assistant deputy director for joint training with the Joint Staff. Over the course of his career, he has come to understand the importance of having a good relationship with the local community.
"I've been doing this for 28 years, and I have lived in 17 different places," Becker said. "They have all been wonderful, but in all honesty, this is the most military-friendly place I have ever lived. It's a wonderful community. The people don't just say 'thanks for your service' and walk on by; they really mean it and reach out in meaningful ways to our soldiers. I grew up on the west coast, and my wife and I have already talked about it. Someday when I retire, it may be right here in South Carolina."
After his duty of leading the fans in the pregame cheer is over, Becker looks forward to the annual halftime salute to all of those who serve in the United States Armed Forces.
"It's a great way that this community and university show to our service members how much they appreciate their service," Becker said. "They roll out the red carpet with a great halftime show, the giant flag, the fireworks show and all the tickets for our service men and women. It shows our soldiers and our family members how much this community and this university care about them."
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