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Commandant Changeover

In mid-January, R-MA Commandant Col Frank Link, USAF, Retired, P’17, announced his intention to retire this March, after three years of dedicated service to the Academy. Replacing him is Lt Col Michael C. Starling, USMC, Retired, who is a 1988 graduate of R-MA, the father of three children enrolled at R-MA, and was previously R-MA’s Chair for Leadership and Character. Col Frank Link retired from R-MA at the beginning of March.

One of Link’s primary goals has been to help the cadet corps and the residential life programs become more student-run, with the faculty and dorm supervisors taking on more advisory roles. Over the last three years, he has seen that come to fruition. “The biggest joy for me has been watching the cadets grow with the school and their ability to rise to the daily challenges they face. The role the cadets have taken to help make this a better place to live and learn has been phenomenal,” he said. Some of the more memorable moments for him have been every graduation, the 125th Anniversary celebrations, and the drill team’s successful run for the Air Force Association’s Virginia AFJROTC Drill Championship last spring. 

“Our time here at R-MA has been professionally and personally rewarding,” said Link. “I am very thankful to my staff and to the entire R-MA family for all of their great work and support over the past three years. I know that they will continue to take R-MA on a successful path.”Lt Col Mike Starling '88 has taken on the role of Commandant of R-MA. He is believed to be the first Marine to hold the position at this military academy.

Starling, who took over the Commandant position on March 6th, is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. His service in the U.S. Marine Corps took him around the globe over his 20-year career. He was trained in infantry, intelligence and light armored reconnaissance fields and served as a leader, commander, operations or executive officer in numerous operational battalions.  Much of this time was spent training Marines and deploying for missions around the world.  Starling also had tours in recruit training, intelligence operations, and with the Marine Corps’ honor guard in Washington, DC.  Later in his career, he was part of a small training cadre which provided training for the Marine Corps’ contingency response forces, embarked on amphibious assault ships, performing missions “from the sea” in support of national security interests.  For his last assignment, he served on the headquarters of one of these response forces for his final deployment, during which they performed missions in Pakistan and the Middle East, as well as Egypt, Libya, and other locations in Africa.  

Starling has already developed a strong rapport with the R-MA cadets, and he looks forward to continuing to help R-MA improve in his new role. “I want to take the best of what I’ve learned at R-MA, at VMI, while serving in uniform and as a civilian, and adapt it to assist our students in shaping the adults they will become, building a strong community here, and instilling practical leadership skills they will use,” he said. “Col Link is leaving us with a strong program and dedicated personnel. We are moving forward in the right direction toward realizing the Academy’s vision; I plan to continue that trajectory and help our students to get the most out of their R-MA experience.”