Earlier this year, Hardin Valley Academy math teacher 2nd Lt. Matthew Riddle celebrated a promotion to an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard following a year and a half in Officer Candidate School (OCS).
Riddle joined the National Guard three years ago as an 09 Sierra, with the intention of becoming an officer.
The lieutenant said he has always felt the calling to join the military. He was a part of Carson-Newman’s ROTC program and was ready to commit when his plans were abruptly put on hold.
“My younger brother got diagnosed with lymphoma in his brain,” Riddle said. “I felt like joining the Army and my brother, not knowing what was going to happen there, was not a great time to join up and possibly get deployed somewhere.”
Riddle then finished college, began teaching high school math, and got married before once again pursuing the military and OCS.
“The year and a half of OCS was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to accomplish,” he said.
Officer candidates attend monthly sessions throughout the program and two sessions of field operations training during the summers.
“It’s two and half weeks of miserable,” Riddle said. “And every single month, being able to mentally prepare yourself and stay physically fit and injury-free, it’s just very taxing.”
Riddle earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the Tennessee Army National Guard during a ceremony on August 13.
As difficult as the path to become an officer has been, leadership has always been a driving force for Riddle. He has adopted leadership positions in other areas of his life as an athletic coach and math teacher.
“I think it’s really a passion of mine as somebody that wants to lead, to be able to grow other people,” he said. “I like being able to push those that are younger to reach whatever their potential is.”
One way he leads his students is by educating them on the military and its benefits, so they consider it as a potential postgraduate pathway.
“KCS is pushing for this movement that not every kid has to attend a four-year university, and that’s okay,” Riddle said. “We need those trade schools, and we need those people that are willing to join the military.”
Riddle now looks ahead to a 16-week Basic Officer Leadership Course to further his career as a military intelligence officer. He is also pursuing a doctoral degree in mathematical education.
“I don’t know how I’ll introduce myself,” he joked. “At that time, it’ll be Dr. 1st Lt. Matthew Riddle.”