By Will Huston
Towards the end of the last school year, shortly before Lieutenant Colonel Ben Gipe’s retirement, he and Senior Chief Mike Beal sat down and looked through a list of possible candidates to take over as the new senior naval science instructor, the position that Gipe held at the time.
“We wanted somebody who was passionate, knew something about drill, rifle team, how to teach, and seemed to uphold the qualities of Honor, Courage, Commitment,” explained Beal, describing the core values of the Marines.
There were seven candidates who applied for Gipe’s position, one being Chief Warrant Officer Gunner Michael Epperson.
Epperson, a tall man who sports a conservative military haircut, was chosen for several reasons, a few of which Beal listed: “He’s fired up, he’s passionate about his work, and he wants to see cadets get to the next level.”
Epperson has been in the Marine Corps for 26 years now, and during his time with the Marines he taught Light Armor classes, and was an academics officer at Fort Knox, which contributed to him winning over the SNSI position.
But the main reason that Epperson got the position was his love for drilling, as demonstrated with his time at Shawnee High School in Louisville.
“It was his time at his last school [that made us choose him],” said Beal.
Epperson hopes to improve the ROTC program by encouraging more people to join.
“The more people who get involved, the more people who have fun,” said Epperson.
When comparing Gipe and Epperson, senior Lance Youtsey, who is the cadet master chief of ROTC, draws a few similarities.
“They’re both pretty funny, [and] they both yell really loud,” said Youtsey.
Outside of school, Epperson spends time woodworking, and watching the occasional movie, his favorite being Full Metal Jacket.
It’s still early on into the school year, and Gunner has already made a few significant changes, such as more PT and platoon drills, but that still convinces some cadets that the change is beneficial.
“I think the program’s going in the right direction,” said Youtsey