EWU ROTC Instructor Wins National Award

November 9, 2023

Frank Cantu, instructor for the Eastern Washington University ROTC program, was recently named as the U.S. Army’s ROTC Instructor of the Year for 2023.

Cantu, a master sergeant with 16 years of experience in the U.S. Army, received this top honor among a pool of 500 instructors from more than 247 schools nationwide who were competing for this award.

“His tireless efforts in shaping the next generation of military leaders have earned him this prestigious recognition,” says Lt. Col. Benjamin Van Meter, professor of military science at EWU.

Cantu, a graduate of John R. Rogers High School, earned his Bachelor of Arts in management from American Military University, and attended U.S. Army Ranger and Sapper schools.

As the primary Military Science III instructor at EWU, Cantu’s innovative curriculum is focused on excellence in educating cadets to become creative and adaptive leaders, says Van Meter, adding his work enhances cadet readiness for future roles as U.S. Army officers.

“Cantu is renowned for his mentorship abilities. He has been instrumental in the personal and professional development of dozens of EWU ROTC cadets, instilling in them the values of discipline, honor, and selfless service,” Van Meter says.

One of those cadets is Kristen Buckingham, a 24-year-old from Kirkland, Washington, who is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and is in the ROTC program at Eastern. She credits Cantu with much of the success she’s had as a junior, last year, and now as a senior.

Cantu provided a wealth of hard-hitting coursework and training on military tactics and leadership that well-prepare students for Advanced Camp, Buckingham says. “We all felt really confident going into summer as a result.”

In addition to bringing vital experience in combat and training as a Ranger and Sapper, an elite combat infantryman, to his instruction, Cantu makes every effort to help cadets succeed.

“He is always willing to spend the extra time outside of class if we drop by his office with whatever questions we have. If we want to go over anything extra, he’s always willing to help,” says Buckingham, who plans to work as a signal officer, doing communication work in the field.

Beyond Cantu’s exemplary teaching and mentorship, he actively engages with the local community to foster a spirit of goodwill between the U.S. Army and civilians Van Meter says.

He organizes community service events and encourages cadets to participate, instilling a sense of civic responsibility.

The Army ROTC Instructor of the Year award is not merely an acknowledgment of Cantu’s outstanding achievements, Van Meter says, “it is a celebration of the selfless dedication, mentorship, and leadership that he brings to the ROTC program.”

Van Meter says Cantu’s excellence and leadership is motivating for both cadets and instructors, helping to shape the future of EWU’s ROTC program as well as the U.S. Army.

For Buckingham, Cantu’s instruction and mentorship is inspirational. “His breadth of knowledge inspires me every day to be better. It’s like maybe I can never be exactly like him, but I’d love to be a leader like him who can set a good example.”

In honor of Veterans Day, on Nov. 11, the Veterans Resource Center is hosting a display in the JFK Library. The display, which runs through Wednesday, Nov. 15, features resource materials, uniform displays, archival photos and service challenge coins recognizing our veterans. There is also a message wall to post photos, messages, and memories of loved ones who served.