Selfless Service: From Yell Leader to Army Leader
Chris Powell '14 shares his experience as an Aggie and talks about how selfless service has shaped his journey to becoming a leader in the U.S. Army.
By Mia Mercer ’23
It’s September 14, 2013. Texas A&M University is hosting the biggest game of the year against the University of Alabama at Kyle Field. Every Aggie in the country is hoping for another win after the 2012 upset against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Chris Powell ’14 and his fellow yell leaders stand at the cusp of excitement waiting to lead the football team out of the tunnel into the south end zone. Intro music builds anticipation. Fans rise to their feet and eagerly begin singing, shouting, and waving 12th Man towels. The cannon goes off, and Powell begins running out of the darkness toward the sound of the roaring Aggie crowd. As kick-off approaches, the sound of 82,600 people following Powell’s lead and yelling, “Beat the hell out of Alabama!” is almost deafening. Powell smiles as he looks up into the bleachers and is overcome with the excitement of leading the Aggie spirit and being part of something bigger than himself.
The school’s rich military history, tradition of selfless service, and support of Corps of Cadet members through scholarships inspired Powell to pursue his undergraduate degree in sociology in Aggieland. Seven years after graduating from Texas A&M, Powell continues serving others. As a captain in the U.S. Army, he’s giving back to his country and spreading the Aggie spirit across the globe.
Life In Aggieland
Born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., Powell grew up on the East Coast. His father’s military service kept his family on the move from base to base. As a result, Powell felt more at home in the military lifestyle than in a specific city or town. When it came time to choose a college, Powell was torn between two schools: Texas A&M and West Point. “My dad graduated from Texas A&M in ’84, so his connection to the university and the Aggie community were a big part of my decision,” Powell explained. “Since I wanted to go into the military after college, I realized Texas A&M was the best choice. It allowed me to be a part of a tight-knit community and prepared me for my future military career. So in the end, I chose to be an Aggie.”
In addition to his enthusiasm for the military-style leadership training offered at Texas A&M, Powell was impressed with the quality of the academic education offered by the university’s College of Liberal Arts. His greatest academic interest was learning how people interact in different situations, and he found his ideal undergraduate degree program in the Department of Sociology.
“What I appreciated most about the College of Liberal Arts is how you’re really challenged to think outside the box,” Powell said. “There’s not just one way to solve a problem, and it’s awesome that this college promotes free thought and different ways of looking at things.”
Serving on Campus
In addition to gaining remarkable leadership skills and an excellent undergraduate education, Powell further developed his affinity for service opportunities during his time in Aggieland. Inspired by his parents’ example of selfless service and sacrifice in his early childhood, Powell sought every opportunity to give back as a student.
In his junior and senior years of college, Powell became part of two prestigious service groups on campus: The Ross Volunteer Company and the Aggie Men’s Club. As a Ross Volunteer, Powell was part of the honor guard for the Texas governor and participated in official drill ceremonies such as Silver Taps and Muster. As a member of the Aggie Men’s Club, Powell had the opportunity to grow academically and spiritually with fellow Aggies who also enjoyed serving others.
“I was able to give back to my community and Texas,” Powell said. “Everything we did in these groups, we did towards the betterment of the university, whether that be through giving a 21-gun salute or taking part in mission trips and community service projects.”
Powell’s most memorable undergraduate experience was being an Aggie yell leader his senior year.
“As a yell leader, you have a platform that enables you to be a positive light to other people and the community,” Powell shared. “Wherever I went and whatever I did during my time as a yell leader, I got the chance to represent this school that I love so much while making people feel valued and appreciated. Seeing the reactions and joy and happiness that we would bring to other people is something that I’ll never forget.”
Powell attended college on an Army ROTC scholarship that required him to serve in the Army for four years after graduating. His military service began with a basic officer intro course in San Antonio. Next, he served in Germany for almost four years.
“Professionally, my experience in the service has been a wonderful opportunity to grow as an officer,” Powell said. “I was a platoon leader and a company executive officer, and I actually had the opportunity to serve and travel with a general officer as his aide-de-camp. I visited about 50 countries, going to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, which has totally changed my perspective on the world, allowing me to see so many different cultures and people while serving my country.”
After being stationed in Germany, Powell came back to the U.S. briefly before his deployment to South Korea in 2019. This fall, Powell will be back in Texas, pursuing a dual master’s degree in business and healthcare administration at Baylor University.
In his current position as a company commander, Powell is responsible for doctors, nurses, and soldiers. He utilizes what he learned in the College of Liberal Arts to be a more compassionate leader.
“As an Army officer, I sometimes have to think outside the box and be a bit more flexible in my approach when it comes to solving problems,” Powell shared. “It’s the same thing with the College of Liberal Arts, where you are encouraged to be creative with how you approach problems, since there’s rarely a straightforward process to handling every situation. Sometimes, you have to leverage your faculties to be able to get to the problem and most importantly, take care of the soldier.”
Powell only needed five years of military service to meet his Army ROTC scholarship requirements, but so far he’s served in the military for more than seven years with no intention of leaving anytime soon.
“I’ve truly enjoyed serving. It is not only fulfilling both personally and professionally, but it allows me to do right by my family, my community, and my country,” Powell explained. “By seeing the effects of selfless service in my childhood and in my time at Texas A&M, I understand that what I’m doing is simply my civic duty.”
A Lasting Impression
Powell gives back to the community daily through his military service. He credits his experiences and education at Texas A&M with making him a better leader. He also said he is thankful for the scholarships he received during his time in Aggieland.
“My mom and dad worked multiple jobs while putting themselves through college and had to balance multiple jobs on top of their scholastic requirements. I know that without my scholarships, I could have been in a very tight financial situation,” Powell said. “My scholarships were definitely a blessing. They made my college life easier. Some people aren’t as fortunate, so I don’t take it for granted.”
In addition to the four-year Army ROTC scholarship, Powell was awarded the Sul Ross Scholarship, which provided $2,000 a year for room and board. These scholarships helped fuel Powell’s Aggie adventures and ongoing selfless service.
“My experience at Texas A&M led to me adopting and applying the Aggie core values to my own life,” Powell explained. “Thanks to the university, and the College of Liberal Arts, I’ve become a catalyst for selfless service towards everyone I meet. I want to be able to look back one day and see that what I did was for the betterment of my family and my community.”
Answer Powell’s Five Questions to Assess Your Own Selfless Service
We can all learn from Powell’s example by applying the value of selfless service to our own efforts. Supporting the College of Liberal Arts is a good place to start serving our fellow Aggies, because the college offers more undergraduate core curriculum hours than any other college. A gift to the College of Liberal Arts is really a gift to every undergraduate who takes a required English, history, communication, ethics, economics, psychology, philosophy, sociology, or other liberal arts course.
Powell’s story is an inspiration, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a little help from others. As a result, Powell challenges others to follow in his service-oriented footsteps. Answer Powell’s five questions about selfless service below to assess your own dedication to this Aggie core value.
One: Who are you serving and where are you serving them, whether it’s in your city, community, or nation?
Throughout his life, Powell searched for opportunities to serve, both on campus and in the military. Now, thousands of miles away from Aggieland, Powell continues to give back to his community through his work in the Army. His example proves that you don’t have to be right next to someone to make a difference in their life.
Two: What do you want to leave as a legacy or a lasting impact?
As a yell leader, Powell worked constantly to make every Aggie feel connected to something bigger than themselves. Now, as a company commander, Powell works to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone he works with, which empowers them to excel in their own selfless service. By serving the College of Liberal Arts, you enable more Aggies to selflessly serve, too!
Three: What do you want to leave as a legacy or a lasting impact?
Powell’s work on campus in his college career helped to preserve and uphold the traditions Texas A&M holds dear. Now, he works to keep our country safe for future generations as he serves others in the U.S. military. Like Powell, you can leave a legacy or create a lasting impact through an endowment level donation.
Four: Who are your service role models? Are you following their example?
Powell has been blessed with role models of selfless service and giving. He simply looks to his family and other Aggies for service inspiration. Follow Powell’s example, and be a positive change in another Aggie’s life.
Five: What are you waiting for?
Powell uses his leadership abilities to create a better world for everyone. Contact Andrew Millar, senior director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss opportunities to help shape and mold more selfless Aggie leaders like Powell.