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ROTC provides opportunity for service, growth

BY MICHELLE FOLEY

As CHS seniors envision post-graduation life, past students are already living it, with many pursuing service-based educational and career pathways.

2019 grad Colleen Lang studies at Azusa Pacific University to become an Army or Air Force nurse through her participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Though quick to list the program’s benefits, including post-graduation career opportunities, academic scholarships and grit, Lang encourages prospective ROTC members to understand exactly what the lifestyle entails.

“Do your research,” she says, explaining that balancing studies with training has challenged her peers, demanding a robust work ethic and strong time management skills. “It definitely builds character. We’ve all changed and grown, even over the course of one semester.”

Another 2019 grad, Claudio Montero gives nearly identical advice as an engineering student and ROTC member at California State University Maritime Academy: “I thought Cal Maritime would be a good place for me to get a leg up on the competition who are also trying to get into the Navy and to embrace the lifestyle that I’ll be a part of for a long time.”

That lifestyle involves crisp uniforms, rigorous naval training and a 20-unit academic course load. To commission as a naval officer after graduation, he balances engineering, calculus and naval science classes with weekly trips south for naval training at the University of California, Berkeley.

2017 grad Parker White holds similar plans for the future. After two years as an ROTC cadet at Texas A&M University, he will take a gap year with plans to transfer to CU Boulder in the coming fall. After graduation, he will commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. military. White was partially motivated to pursue ROTC for its scholarship opportunities. Taking classes in Arabic, a “defensive language” according to the United States Department of Defense, covered all of his expenses and allowed him to spend ten weeks in Morocco the summer after freshman year to study the language.

After experiencing bullying as a child, White began to see service as an avenue for self-defense and strength.

“It had been in my head for so long that I didn’t see myself doing anything else,” he says.

Though White originally planned to enlist as a soldier immediately after graduating high school, his family encouraged him to take the officer route.

The path to service has been a bit different for 2019 grad Kurt Brophy, a U.S. Naval Academy freshman and 2018 grad Nathan Suess, U.S. Air Force Academy sophomore. After graduation, both will graduate debt-free and commission as officers in their respective fields.

The financial benefits don’t tip the scale for these students on their own. CHS guidance counselor Darren Johnston says that between one and four Carmel High students choose a service-related path after high school annually, with most motivated by more than just finances.

Growing up with a naval background, Brophy says he serves through a desire to help others as a future naval officer and a member of what he calls “the world’s ocean police force.”

“No matter what kind of community you go into, whether it be pilot, marine or submarine ship driver, you’re doing some kind of action to help people,” Brophy says. “You could be an aircraft pilot dropping bombs on terrorist groups or you could be in a surface warfare ship bringing supplies to a devastated country after a tsunami.”

Suess, who plans to pursue a service-based career in civil engineering, says the Air Force Academy offers a unique culture and opportunities for self-improvement, community and career.

“It’s a grind,” Suess says. “If you don’t want a military life, then don’t go for it. If you do, there’s no better place.”

For future midshipmen, cadets, soldiers, pilots and nurses, the journey has been one of passion and commitment. As CHS seniors approach graduation, a pathway into service may be on the horizon for a few.

“Just work your ass off, get in good shape, research what you want to do and pursue that with every ounce of your being,” Claudio Montero advises prospective plebes. “God willing, it’ll work out.”

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