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Employee Spotlight

Service Above Self

Before he came to Provo as the new chair for the Department of Military Science and head of Brigham Young University’s Army ROTC, Lieutenant Colonel Travis Bailey planned to make his assignment in Kansas City his last. With a leap of faith to request a new position, Bailey was transferred to BYU, where he now leads the program with his nearly 20 years of active-duty military experience.

Profile picture of LTC Travis Bailey.
LTC Bailey is the chair of the Department of Military Science and leads BYU's Army ROTC.
Photo courtesy of LTC Travis Bailey.

Bailey was born at the army hospital in Fort Benning, Georgia, and his life has been linked to the military ever since. His father, an officer in the army, moved his family from place to place for the majority of Bailey’s childhood until retiring and settling in Washington state. Bailey quickly paved his own path in the army by joining the JROTC in high school.

“My father had a huge influence on me. He was the primary reason why I decided to go into the military,” Bailey says. “Even though he always encouraged me, I never felt pressured to join the military.”

After high school, Bailey completed his freshman year at Washington State University (WSU) before serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala. Upon returning, Bailey studied criminal justice and Spanish back at WSU while also participating in the university’s Army ROTC program, with plans to commission as an active-duty servicemember after graduation.

When the events of September 11 happened in 2001, Bailey’s commitment to serve in the military took on new meaning. “We realized that we were probably going to deploy overseas,” Bailey says.

LTC Bailey and other service members posing for a photo in front of a vehicle.
LTC Bailey (pictured second from the left) first deployed in 2005.
Photo courtesy of LTC Travis Bailey.

Many of his friends did deploy to Iraq for the initial invasion in 2003. He says, “Seeing what happened during the invasion and all the issues that they were dealing with there—reality started to sink in.” This reality intensified Bailey’s focus and helped him develop a more selfless mindset. “I paid closer attention to what our instructors taught us. I knew that information would keep me alive, and as a future officer, help me keep others alive,” he says.

Upon graduating from WSU in 2004, Bailey commissioned in the army and began training and preparing for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. From 2005 to 2010, he deployed three separate times for a total of 30 months, each time providing military intelligence services for the army. In 2017 he spent 10 more months in his final deployment in the Middle East.

After his final deployment, Bailey found himself living near Kansas City, Missouri, where his family grew comfortable with the area. After having moved so often, “We pretty much decided that we would stay here as long as the army would let me,” he says. Bailey enjoyed his position as an assistant professor at the Command and General Staff College, instructing new lieutenant colonels and majors. “I was finally at the point that I could decide to stay put. We were ready to ride into the sunset there in Missouri.”

LTC Bailey posing for a photo at Fort Irwin in the US.
LTC Bailey was assigned to serve in many places around the country, including Fort Irwin in California.
Photo courtesy of LTC Travis Bailey.

However, in 2022 Bailey became interested in teaching in an ROTC program. “I always planned to go into education after retiring from the military,” he says. “My job in Kansas moved me closer to that goal, but ROTC would give me a unique opportunity to teach the next generation of officers who were at the very beginning of their careers.”

He soon submitted his application for consideration. “After I began the selection process, I saw an open position at BYU,” he says. “I let the army know that BYU was my number one choice.” Bailey had family in Utah and a daughter studying at BYU, and he and his family liked the idea of living near them. Although Bailey stated a preference to go to BYU, years in the army had taught him that preferences were rarely granted.

“People rarely get their number one choice, and in this case, the chances of it happening were very slim,” he says. “I told my wife that we don’t have to do it,” but they agreed to just request a transfer and see what happened. If Bailey didn’t like the transfer assignment, he could take the option to retire in Missouri. So he submitted the request.

A few months later, Bailey received an email in his inbox that said, “You’ve been selected to be the professor of military science at Brigham Young University.” Bailey and his wife could hardly believe their eyes when they read the letter.

LTC Bailey pictured with his family with colorful leaves in the background.
LTC Bailey enjoys spending time with his family.
Photo courtesy of LTC Travis Bailey.

“Of all the places they could send us,” he says, “they’re asking us to go to the one place we would actually consider!” The army asked him to accept or deny the offer within the next 48 hours, so Bailey discussed it with his family, fasted, prayed, and chose to accept the offer. “It was really cool. We asked God to help us feel excited about it if we needed to go, and we all felt really excited about it.”

Now settled into his new assignment at BYU, Bailey enjoys working in the Army ROTC program. “This is the best job in the army, ever, hands down,” he says. “The best part of my job is engaging with the cadets. There’s a different feeling about being here than any place I’ve been before.”

Bailey offers advice to those who look forward to leading others or for those who plan on joining the ROTC ranks: “If you want to be a good leader,” he explains, “you need to focus on selfless service.”


Written by Jake Holt