Great instructors make great leaders
SFA’s ROTC and military science instructors have had lengthy military careers, and they are ready to help Lumberjacks develop the leadership skills and discipline they need to succeed in college and beyond. As an ROTC cadet, you’ll work with decorated military veterans who have decades of active duty experience and educational backgrounds in fields like law enforcement, business and military science.
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Attaway, III
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Attaway, III, is the SFA ROTC professor of military science. Originally from Quitman, Texas, he enlisted in the Army an as infantryman in 1998. Upon completion of training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Attaway was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While in the 82nd Airborne Division, he served until 2001 and attained the rank of sergeant. In summer of 2001, Lt. Col. Attaway began studying at SFA. In May 2004, he commissioned as a distinguished military graduate and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology.
Attaway then attended aviation basic officer leader course and flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. His operational assignments as an officer have been in the following units: 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 2nd Infantry Division, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence, and the United States Army Human Resources Command.
Attaway is a graduate of Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Joint Firepower Course, Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, and the Command and General Staff College.
Attaway has deployed to Kosovo, Iraq, Korea and Afghanistan. He currently resides in Nacogdoches where he lives with his wife, Shauna, and two children, Daisy and James IV.
First Lieutenant Mariko Badders
First Lieutenant Mariko Badders began her military career as an SMP cadet serving in the North Carolina National Guard in 2010. She later received her commission as a distinguished military graduate from Wake Forest University. She subsequently joined the Texas National Guard where she began working as a gold bar recruiter for the University of Houston. Upon completion of Adjutant General Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina she served as a Battalion S1. In 2014, she switched from the National Guard to the Army Reserve to begin working as an aide de camp to 75th Training Command's Deputy Commanding General. In 2016, she moved from Houston to Nacogdoches and began her position as an Assistant Professor of Military Science for the Lumberjack Battalion. Badders continues to serve in the Army Reserves and is a full-time attorney in the civilian sector.
Her decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Metal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
Master Sergeant Raul Cantu
Senior Military Instructor
Master Sergeant Raul Cantu is from Gatesville, Texas, and he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on January 3rd, 2001. Upon completion of One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served until 2008. He then served as a Ranger instructor at 4th Ranger Training Battalion at Fort Benning until 2011.
His follow-on assignment was to Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, where he served until 2014 as a platoon sergeant. He then returned to Fort Benning and served as a company first sergeant in 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and Task Force 1-28 Infantry.
He is a graduate of Ranger School, Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, Basic Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course, Senior Leaders Course, First Sergeant/Company Commander Pre-Command Course and the Emergency Medical Technician Basic Course.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with one Silver Leaf Cluster, Parachutist Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge and Ranger Tab. He has deployed to Afghanistan twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a bachelor's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Military University.
Lieutenant Colonel Mai Lee Eskelund
LTC Mai Lee Eskelund is the assistant professor of military science and executive officer. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and commissioned in 2003 as a branch detailed chemical officer. Her first duty station was with 1/6th Cavalry, an Apache Squadron in Wonju, South Korea. After completing the signal transition course, Eskelund was assigned to I CORP at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. She was responsible for the only signal platoon the G6 supported and deployed with 22nd MP BN as an S6, and completed Company Command with 51st Signal Battalion.
After graduating from the Command and General Staff College, Eskelund deployed as a signal executive officer with the 25th Signal Battalion and Regimental S6 with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, prior to moving to Nacogdoches as cadre for the SFA ROTC program.
Eskelund has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea. She is a foodie and a world traveler, who claims Woodcreek, Texas as her home. She is pursuing a second master’s degree in counseling for her career after the Army.
Sergeant McKinley McBride
Sergeant McKinley McBride was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, where he enlisted into the Active Army March 2003 and then attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. McBride has been assigned to the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment, Fort Polk, Louisiana; the 287th Military Police Company, Fort Riley, Kansas; and 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
McBride has had five deployments: three to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 1, 2 and 3; one to Kandahar, Afghanistan, at COP Shurendam in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2012 to 2013; and he completed his last deployment to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, before reporting to SFA’s Department of Military Science.
McBride's military awards and decorations include Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Oversees Service Ribbon, ISAF NATO Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
Master Sergeant Jose Rendon
Master Sgt. Jose Rendon is from San Antonio, Texas. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on January 26, 2002. Upon completion of One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to 1st of the 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division, Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where he served until 2009. He then served as an instructor at 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Grafenwohr, Germany, until 2012.
His follow-on assignment was 3rd Brigade 1st Infantry Division, where he served until 2014 as a platoon sergeant. He then returned to Vilseck, Germany, where he served as current operations noncommissioned officer in charge and a platoon sergeant.
He is a graduate of Battle Staff, Air Assault School, Master Resilience Trainer, Basic Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course and Senior Leaders Course.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Bronze Leaf Clusters, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge and Air Assault Badge. He has deployed to Afghanistan once in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Stabilization Force 11.
Human Resources Technician
James Brown's military career began on December 15, 1987, at basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois. In February 1988, he started his training pipeline at Basic Submarine A and C schools in Groton, Connecticut. Brown was stationed at Charleston, South Carolina; Kings Bay, Georgia; and Point Loma, San Diego, California. He served over 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a submarine radioman onboard three submarines and as a Navy recruiter.
Upon leaving the Navy, Brown worked for Texas Instruments in Houston, Texas and then Texaco and Shell in Bellaire, Texas as a network operations specialist. In 2008, Brown began working at Sam Houston State University's Army ROTC as the human resources assistant until 2014. He then transferred to Denver, Colorado to work with 8th Marine Corps Recruiting District, Officer Selection Office as a human resources assistant for three years. He then transferred to SFA in December 2017, working with the Military Science Department as the human resources technician.
Samuel Gardner served over 20 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a sergeant first class. His military career began in October 1976, when he enlisted in the regular Army as a wuartermaster supply specialist. He attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia.
Gardner has served in numerous army units including the 1st and 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen and Schweinfurt, Germany), 1st and 87th Infantry (Baumholder, Germany), 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Hood, Texas) and the 9th Area Finance Group, 9th Infantry Division (Fort Lewis, Washington). He also served as the Supply Sergeant with the 4th ROTC Brigade, Fort Lewis, Washington assigned to Washington State University. Gardner has made several deployments including Operation Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Provide Democracy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Mr. Gardner retired at the Presidio of San Francisco, California. Immediately upon retirement, Mr. Gardner began work with the Workforce Solutions of East Texas and Veterans Commission as the veteran employment representative serving numerous East Texas counties for nine years. Prior to coming to SFA, he was a federal employee at Alcorn State University in Mississippi.
Gardner's decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal (fifth award), the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal with Bronze Star. He is an active member of the American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars.
Synetha Griffin began her military career as an enlisted soldier serving in the Mississippi Army National Guard in 1997. She joined the Mississippi State University Army ROTC program as a student, where she earned a degree in history and commissioned as an ordnance officer in 2003.
Griffin’s assignments have been in Mississippi and Florida. She presently serves in the United States Army Reserve. Prior to coming to SFA, she worked as a military science instructor at Jackson State University.
Sonnie Mosier has served as administrative assistant to the Chair of Military Science since February 1997. She is responsible for supporting the program's students and being a university liaison for the staff. Additionally, she assists new non-SFA faculty and staff with SFA's policies and procedures during in-processing. She also directs the flow of student work in the office, delegating duties as necessary.
Prior to coming to the Department of Military Science, Mosier served as a data input specialist in the data center for the Admissions Office and as a receptionist for the Office of the President.
Mosier has been with the university since August 1994 and has maintained positions that have always included helping people as she worked in the field of higher education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from SFA.
Originally from Gladewater, Texas, Christopher Powell enlisted in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout in 1998. After completing his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Powell was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Polk, Louisiana. During his time as a scout, he served as a squad leader and section sergeant during peacetime and the invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Powell was subsequently detailed as an army recruiter for three years within the East Texas area. Powell then served as an instructor within the Armor School of Fort Knox, where he taught counterinsurgency and reconnaissance operations to junior army officers. Shortly after his assignment, Powell was selected for application to the U.S. Army counterintelligence special agent’s course. He graduated from the course in 2009 and took an assignment as the senior counterintelligence agent of a Middle East field office. After returning to the U.S., Powell attended assessment and selection for a nominative assignment with the special operations community. Powell favorably assessed and remained in the community until his retirement from the U.S. Army in January 2019.
Powell is a graduate of the Scout Platoon Leader’s Course, S.E.R.E. School, Advanced Foreign Counterintelligence Course, Surveillance and Countersurveillance Course, Senior Military Intelligence Leader’s Course, and the First Sergeant and Company Commander’s Pre-Command Course.
Powell served throughout the regions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Syria from 2003 until 2017.
Powell was married in 2002 to a Nacogdoches native, and they have two beautiful children.
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Ray
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Ray is from Elk River, Minnesota. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a wheeled vehicle repairer in October 2002.
Upon completion of his initial training, Ray was assigned to the 512th Maintenance Company in Mannheim, Germany. In January 2004, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon completion of the 13-month deployment, Ray was redeployed to Germany to finish his enlistment contract.
After a one-year break in service, Ray enlisted into the Minnesota Army National Guard, serving five years as a recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer. In May 2011, he deployed with the 257th Military Police Company to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he served as a guard force commander in a detention facility. Following that deployment, he was assigned to B Company 134th Brigade Support Battalion as a squad leader, then promoted to sergeant first class and assigned to the 224th Transportation Company as its platoon sergeant and motor sergeant before his promotion to first sergeant of E Company 134th Brigade Support Battalion. He then voluntarily transferred to Texas to serve as the liaison for SFA ROTC.
Ray is a graduate of several courses, including basic leaders, recruiting and retention noncommissioned officers, advanced leaders, National Guard Reaction Forces instructor, senior leaders and the first sergeant/company commander pre-command.
His decorations include Afghan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Service Medal, Army Service Medal, NATO Medal, Overseas Service Medal, Drivers and Mechanic Badge and Army National Guard Recruiter Badge – Master.
Sgt. 1st Class Levi Vernon
Sgt. 1st Class Levi Vernon is from Winter Haven, Florida. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on July 8, 2003.
Upon completion of One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning in Georgia, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment at Camp Casey in South Korea and Fort Carson in Colorado, where he served until 2006. He then worked as a recruiter in Philadelphia until 2009.
Vernon was later assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson until 2013. In 2016, he served as a joint security force advisor instructor and observer/controller at Fort Polk in Louisiana.
Another change in assignment came in 2018 when he served as a platoon sergeant and operations sergeant major with the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Vernon is a graduate of several schools, including airborne, air assault and pathfinder. Additionally, he completed myriad courses, including reconnaissance and surveillance leaders, battle staff, basic leaders, advanced leaders and senior leaders.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and Pathfinder Badge.
Vernon deployed twice to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, once to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and once to Somalia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa. He is married with two children.
Originally from Spring, Debardelaben attended SFA, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and commissioned in May 1990.
Debardelaben’s military occupation specialty is transportation. Before attending officer basic course, he completed a road trip from Texas to Alaska and back, then completed the transportation officer basic course at Fort Eustis, Virginia, in January 1991. He joined the 75th Division Exercise, Headquarters 1st Brigade in Houston in 1994. Debardelaben served as G4 Staff, overseeing and assisting with computer simulation war game exercises, along with lane exercises and observer controller training for the 75th Division in the Central United States.
After 9/11, he was mobilized two times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. During these mobilizations, he assisted in teaching and training the military decision-making and troop-leading processes to mobilized reserve units as part of their validation process before deployment. Simultaneously, Debardelaben attended transportation office advance course and received the rank of major.
As a civilian, Debardelaben worked as a Texas state parole officer from 1995 through 2015, where he assisted parolees with their return to society.
He resides in Nacogdoches and enjoys life with his wife, Layne and their three children, Holly, Rebecca and Haden. His hobbies include fishing or anything associated with water or snow, in Texas, Colorado and Alaska.
Debora Silva is originally from Mansfield, Texas, but spent most of her years moving with the Navy as a Navy Brat.
Silva’s military occupation was inventory management, logistics and supply. She enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in November 1987. After completing Air Force Technical School, her first duty station was Eaker Air Force Base in Arkansas, where she worked as a supply tech for the B-52 and KC-135 units. In 1992, she was off to England and worked in the main supply as a document control and mission impaired capability awaiting parts specialist. She then participated in her first deployment in support of Desert Storm. Next, she was off to Tinker Air Force Base where she was in a combat communications unit. This assignment found her on many deployments, including Uphold Democracy, Operation Joint Guardian and Southwest Asia. After a few years in Oklahoma, it was time to move on to Korea. Silva was at Osan Air Base as the manager of the chemical warfare section before heading back to Tinker again for just one short year. In 2001, she received her final base of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and worked with the A-10’s. She was deployed a few more times to Southwest Asia before retiring in 2010.
Since retiring, Silva has worked as a Navy contractor at Tinker, Texas WorkForce Solutions and Social Security Services. She now resides in Huntington, Texas, and has a daughter in Washington.