My Army ROTC Experience
In April, I made the two-hour drive with my mom to visit Moravian College. It was small, cozy, and not in the middle of nowhere! I sat in Dr. Salter’s class, and I felt like this was my place. During our Open House visit, my mom saw me eyeing the Army ROTC table, but not making the move, so she dragged me over to talk to them.
My senior year of high school, I was also talking to military recruiters because I had no clue how I would pay for school, since at the time I wanted to be a doctor. Plus, there was always something about the military that grabbed my attention. The upperclassmen answered all my mom’s questions while I stood there, interested, but never thought it would be me. Here I am, this shy girl, who couldn’t give a class presentation without freaking out, let alone lead a unit in the army. I brushed ROTC off at the time, but it remained in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to my first finals week as a college student. I realized by that point that I was struggling not just with classes, but trying to find my spot in college. I wasn’t sure if Moravian was the place for me. As I sat in my dorm after my last final, waiting for my dad to pick me up, I noticed an email from the same senior about ROTC. I had totally forgotten about it. He asked if I was still interested in ROTC. I basically told him “why not?” Oh, how that would impact my future with Moravian and my life.
That summer, my mom saw something when I talked about ROTC—as if I knew it was a good decision, but knew I was scared because I never thought it was me. I was the goof of my friends, but I was the protective friend. My mom saw it, but I didn’t. She convinced me to give ROTC a try during my next semester.
I wish my roommate videotaped me the night before my first PT, a workout at Lehigh with all the cadets at 0600. I WAS FREAKING OUT! I woke up at 0400, even though I didn’t have to meet anyone until 0530. Can you tell how nervous I was? I remember pacing the lobby because it was too early to be outside in the cold January morning and I didn’t want to wake up my roommate. When I met the two Moravian College seniors also headed to PT, that calmed me a little down because they weren’t these big scary dudes. We arrived at PT, outside of Rauche Field house on Lehigh’s campus. The Moravian seniors introduced me as the new Moravian Cadet, and since I didn’t have a uniform yet, I was called ‘Moravian’ that day. I liked the name.
As we were running, the two senior Moravians kept cheering me on. After PT, during the drive, they asked me how it was. I said better than expected. Then I told them I had no clue how I would get to Lehigh’s South Mountain Top Campus for class, since it was to far to walk. One of the seniors told me I could drive his car. THIS KID DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ME! But he trusted me; the first ROTC lesson I ever learned was to trust your men and women, no matter what.
Fast-forward a month later to my 19th birthday. I was in love with ROTC and my senior cadets. They took me under their wings and we were an ROTC trio. Since there was no one else from Moravian College in the program, they were trying to make sure everything went smoothly, because if I struggled and dropped because of reasons that could have been helped with, who else was going to keep ROTC alive at Moravian when they graduated? Anytime I talked to someone about ROTC, I lit up. I would go on and on about ROTC and the senior Moravian cadets. I became dedicated to ROTC and watched the best mentors a girl could ever ask for grow into Second Lieutenants. I grew stronger and talked a little more. I also lost weight, instead of gaining the freshmen 15. The only thing that sucked was not having as much sleep. But let me tell you, I was usually too happy to sleep anyway.
May 2015 was an eventful time for me. I was saying goodbye to “my boys,” who made me the person I was. Who was going to be there for me next year? I was going to be a lonely sophomore taking on incoming freshmen cadets. But the boys prepared me so much without me even me knowing it. I cried when I said my final goodbye to “my boys,” not because it was our last time together, but for what they had done for me.
Thinking I wouldn’t have anything to do with ROTC until the fall, I got an email from the recruiter. He wanted me to go to Fort Knox for a camp in the summer, so I wouldn’t have to take the freshmen class that I missed in the fall and would be caught up. I thought it was the only reason, but I learned it was actually more. When I returned in the fall of 2015, I was asked if I wanted to try for a scholarship and a contract. I was excited but so nervous waiting to hear the news.
I was just avoiding homework like a normal college student when I got the call from the program’s Professor of Military Science (pretty much a dean, but cooler) in November. I thought I did something wrong or something happened. I was freaking out inside, but tried to not show it in my voice. He then told me to that I got the scholarship and how proud he was of me. I wanted to scream and thank him, but I just sat there in shock. He thought he lost me, but I finally responded. I felt like I was on top of the world. If I had the option of having anything in the world, it would be a contracted cadet in this ROTC program. AND I GOT IT!
When ROTC came into my life, I didn’t realize the amount of stress that I left behind. I feel at home with it. When I graduate in 2018, I will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the greatest military branch ever! This is more exciting to me than the degree in Chemistry I will also earn. Yes, I am scared to take on the role, but I know with the mentors I have in my life and will soon meet, I will rise up to the position.
I know ROTC and the Army aren’t for everyone. But when find something that you love, that makes you a better person. And the thing that you love might not be what you expect – explore outside your comfort zone. Because if I didn’t, where would I be now? Probably not at Moravian having the best time of my life meeting such great people that ROTC opened me up to. I will never regret saying “why not” to that email. I am proud of the person that I am, and I can never stop thanking ROTC and everyone involved with it for giving me this life. An eight-year contract with the army after graduating might seem a lot for most, but it is the least I can do after what they have done for me. Who knows, it might become more! I will be open minded and always be proud of this decision, no matter how many hours of sleep I am running on.