Climbing the Corporate Ladder
Middle East Region’s Muse: CAP Cadet Experience Led to McDonald’s Success
By Jennifer S. Kornegay
After years of turning out strong leaders who go on to accomplish great things, there’s little doubt CAP’s cadet program, and the education and training it offers, is one of CAP’s most important components.
Providing further proof of this is Capt. Eric Muse, a former cadet who, at just 31 years old, has already climbed pretty high on the corporate ladder. He gives his cadet experience credit for his success and is even sharing what he learned during his time with CAP, using some of the same methods and information he was taught as a cadet in the training courses he now conducts for his company.
Muse is director of Restaurant Department Management and Training for a McDonald’s franchisee who owns and operates 12 McDonald’s in Maryland, Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area (and is about to expand). He’s in charge of creating and implementing the restaurants’ training system, making sure all 700 employees, including supervisors and managers, are trained properly and that they are using the training.
He also conducts restaurant inspections and teaches training classes. In this position, he’s an integral part of the top leadership team that keeps the $40 million company going and growing.
If you ask Muse what element of his background most influences his work, he doesn’t hesitate. “I had so many experiences in CAP as a cadet that shaped who I am and what I do now,” he said. “Leading so many different activities helped me learn a lot about people and how to successfully manage people.
“The leadership skills alone that I got from CAP are invaluable.”
But he really only learned about CAP by chance. His mom was a financial bookkeeper for a Prince Georges County, Maryland, middle school where CAP was forming a cadet squadron. “She told me about it, and it sounded so interesting,” Muse said. “But I wasn’t in middle school, so I couldn’t join that one.” Muse asked around, found the Andrews Composite Squadron on Andrews Air Force Base and signed up for its cadet corps. He was 16 when he joined in September 2002.
Two years later, Muse graduated high school. During his final months of high school and while preparing to head off to college, he began working at a McDonald’s. He started as a cashier, then moved up with promotion after promotion so quickly that, he actually took some time off from college.
“And then I never went back,” he said.
He believes he made the right choice when he left college, at least for his specific situation, and he was definitely still learning. “I went to Hamburger University,” he said. “It sounds funny, but it’s real, and the management classes there are college credit courses.”
He had made it to manager at McDonald’s in just two months. “I felt like I could keep rising if I was devoted to my job,” he said. And he did.
He’s been in his current job for about four years, hitting the career high at age 26. Again, he praises CAP. “I know that my time as a cadet got me here,” he said.
A large part of his job is to teach management, and he draws on the tools and techniques used by those who taught him in CAP.
“The way I approach it is essentially how the cadet program teaches leadership and management,” he said. "I actually get some of my classwork concepts from some of the CAP leadership books I had. And I often use examples that are from my CAP experiences in my management classes, even with senior supervisors.”
He listed a few other key skills he learned from CAP. “I learned that attitude is a state of mind, and that is really important in what I teach our managers,” he said. “And being able to stand in front of a large group of people and talk.
“Without CAP, I would not be able to do that. I’m a shy person, but when you’re put in charge of teaching drills at CAP, you learn how to do it and how to do it comfortably.”
CAP also taught Muse to set high standards, something he now impresses on the McDonald’s employees he’s molding. “When I do restaurant inspections, I hold them to a very high standard, even higher than what corporate requires,” he said.
Today, Muse’s job requires a lot of his time and attention, but he’s still an active CAP senior member. He is assistant cadet activities officer for the Middle East Region and participates in National Cadet Competition every year. He also served as master of ceremonies for CAP’s 75th anniversary kickoff celebration in February 2016.
“I am really busy with my job, but I stay involved because I believe in the cadet program,” he said. “The benefits I’ve gotten from the cadet program have been life-changing for me, but I know they’ve been that for others, too.”
He recalled more than one instance when fellow cadets reached out to thank him for the leadership they learned under his direction, both during and at the end of his time as a cadet. He also feels the appreciation from the NCC teams he works with each year.
“Those kind of things are rewarding and keep me wanting to pass on what I learned. I can see that the cadet program is really making a difference,” he said.
Muse pointed to one other positive aspect of the program. “It’s fun. It was fun when I was a cadet, and it’s fun to be involved now,” he said.
“I love meeting folks from all over and forming lifelong friendships. Some of my best friends now I made as a cadet.”
His only regret when it comes to CAP and his cadet days? “I just wish I’d known about CAP earlier and gotten involved when I was even younger,” he said. “I would have gotten even more."