He may not always wear his Citadel ring, as some graduates do, but that doesn’t mean that Col. Richard Townes isn’t excited about returning to his alma mater to head the University’s Army ROTC program.
"It is quite an honor," he says. The former 29th Infantry Regiment Commander is also delighted that his son will be attending the Citadel at the same time.
During his time at the Military College of South Carolina from 1979 to 1983, Townes says his entire outlook and attitude changed. His father, a three-war veteran and Army hero, was "very demanding on every level. I became exceedingly rebellious," Townes remembers.
It was a master sergeant in The Citadel’s ROTC program who put Townes on the right path. "It started to click," he remembers. And as a cadet he realized he and the Army were a good fit.
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Rob Poydasheff, an attorney and son of Citadel graduate and former Columbus mayor Bob Poydasheff, was president of Townes’ class in 1983 and remembers him well. "He was an outstanding cadet." Poydasheff recalls. "One of those folks you knew would go into the Army, do well and go far."
Bob Poydasheff is the representative for the class of 1954 and one of The Citadel’s biggest cheerleaders.
"It gave me a great understanding of what leadership is all about."
"Duty is the most sublime word in our language," Robert E. Lee is quoted as saying. "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less," Townes says that was one of the things he picked up at The Citadel that has guided him through his career. He says that quote and the honor code — "A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do" — have driven him.
Townes is the last commander of the 29th Infantry Regiment, which has been reflagged as the 197th Infantry Brigade. He changed command July 18 and immediately headed back to Charleston and The Citadel after 24 years. While he says it was an honor to be at Fort Benning and have the opportunity to train soldiers, he is looking forward to his new role. "I feel very lucky to be offered this assignment," he says and adds, "it came out of the blue."
Going back, he says, will be very different since he will now function as a soldier, not as a graduate. He says the school also has changed. For one thing, it is now a co-ed institution, something he favors. "It is state funded and females pay taxes," he explains. The colonel also believes it is a better school today from an academic standpoint.
He is already very familiar with one of the cadets. Eldest son Stephen Townes first became acquainted with the college when his dad took him to his 20th reunion. It was then the young man decided that was the right school for him. He applied, was accepted and received a four-year scholarship.
Since Col. Townes had planned to retire after his Fort Benning assignment, it came as a surprise to the young Townes that his father would be instructing him at The Citadel.
"I was angry at first," Stephen acknowledges, but added. "it has its benefits and disadvantages." He expects he will probably draw more attention from the upperclassmen. The colonel isn’t concerned about his son since Stephen was a championship wrestler in high school and "can handle it."
He has also reassured the teenager that as a cadet he will be living in the barracks and will be independent.
Although Citadel graduates are not required to perform military service, Stephen Townes plans to join the Army. His father hopes while at The Citadel to play a part in finding the best and brightest and directing them into an Army career.
"I will focus on training future leaders and identifying the cream of the crop," the colonel said.