In late May, I officially joined the Army ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps) program at The Ohio State University. A year ago, I would have never seen myself wearing a military uniform and walking across campus. I knew nothing about the military, but I had this feeling that directing myself towards this pathway would be a good decision. It wasn’t just a good decision; it was a GREAT decision, and monumental in the fact that it would forever change the way I perceived life and the many experiences I had in it. I have learned so much about not only this program, but also about myself and my abilities. Following your gut feeling not only makes you feel confident in finding the right path for yourself, but it also drives you to complete your goals and experience your passions to a greater degree, making life more meaningful.
I had many misconceptions about ROTC, but my experience in the program so far has definitely cleared up many of my questions and concerns. I wondered how many young women were geared towards this mindset as much as I was. I was worried I would not be able to handle the demanding physical aspect conducted within the program. As I progressed, I found that though the workouts were tough and sometimes overwhelming, I realized how strong I was in this process. Forcing myself to decrease my run time or attempting to do strength training exercises faster, not only displayed my capabilities in a physical sense, it also gave me more confident inside and outside of ROTC. I feel pride when I run faster than my counterparts, but most of all, I feel as if I can take on the world when I supersede my own expectations. Other young women within the program that I interact with on a daily basis display this confidence as well, and never cease to surprise me with their agility and intellect. I was concerned with the amount of time I would have to serve in order to fulfill the program’s requirements. The more I move through life, the harder and much more impactful the decisions become. This was one of the biggest decisions I could have ever made at my age, and I did it in a heartbeat, even with my constant worrying. With every decision comes hesitation for change; as young adults, we have to overcome this inevitable stress, and go for what we think is best for us in the long run. This is exactly what I did in choosing this path.
Army ROTC possesses many aspects, all of which work towards the end goal of producing a leader capable of helping others inside and outside of the military. I have courses through my university that I take, which explain Army values, military ranks, and other facets that provide additional knowledge necessary for obtaining an Officer rank. The academic part supplements the physical training, where cadets meet 3-4 days a week to exceed physical standards and actively work towards a healthy, productive life. The times we meet are always in the morning. I have to get up at 5am every day, which can be hard at times, but rewarding after each workout. There are also a great number of get-togethers and activities cadets take part in, such as cookouts, tailgates for football games, and the Military Ball.
The physical trainings can be demanding. Some days, I think of myself as weak when I can’t do a set number of reps for a workout. Thankfully, I have a team that pushes me to success. They also show me that I am capable of more than I think I am. My running times have improved tenfold, and I have pushed past what I imagined I could ever achieve physically. I have also met a great group of people the same age range as me who are as motivated and determined to serve others. Although there is a lack of young women in the military in general, the rate at which young women like me are joining is increasing, which can be seen from each ROTC program at Ohio State.
According to statistics, the percentage of women in the military varies within each branch, and the average percentage of women in the military as a whole is about 14.6% . Though there is a higher percentage of women in Military Reserves and the National Guard (around 19.4%), the numbers are fairly low compared to men that serve in the military. Women were not permitted to serve in the military until 1917-1918, or at the end of World War I, where women served as nurses. Even today, there are a number of positions opening up to young women, such as fighting in combat (Ranger Forces). Criticism is very prevalent with this topic. Many believe women are not meant to be in a battlefield, or are simply not as strong as their male counterparts to place themselves in combat. Women are defying statements made, and their progression within the military is honorable. Women are pursuing their goals, and this increase in confidence is leading to great advancements. Though the lack of women in the military worried me to some extent, I did not hesitate in following what I thought was the path for me. It is encouraging to see women’s persistence in aspiring to becoming a soldier, and wanting to lead in such an honorable way. It angers me when I see people refute the idea that women do not belong in the military, especially when it comes to combat positions; though these jobs are grueling and tough, to say the least, women are as capable as men to embark upon this challenge. I hope those who possess a perspective that goes against the idea of women in the military see women’s desire to serve in a more positive and reasonable light.
I want to become a doctor in the Army, where I would enter the Medical Corps after going to medical school and completing my residency, where the Army pays for all tuition expenses. I am required to serve around 8 years Active Duty, where I would work on base for soldiers and their families. Many benefits, such as worldwide travel, great pay, and cheaper insurance, are also available for those who serve. Going into the service completely changes the setting in which I will work, depending upon where I am placed and what specialization I choose. What I wanted for myself before concerning becoming a doctor in comparison to now did not change; what changed is what I want to emphasize in my work as a doctor. Through the military, I can treat those who have made inconceivable sacrifices for their brothers and sisters; selfless service, to me, is the most important morale, and it affects more than the eye can see. I hope I can change others’ lives through the work I will perform within the Army Medical Corps.
One of the most important things I have learned throughout my experiences in ROTC and college is to go with your gut. You might be afraid to think of what would happen when things don’t go the way they were planned; don’t think about the negative aspects or probabilities. Just because women are stereotyped into a category of weakness and incapability to perform at a men’s level in some issues, do not let that affect your decision. If you feel a certain decision is what will directly lead you to your passions and aspirations, then do not hesitate to jump on the opportunities that are available to you. Sometimes, it may seem like the whole world is fighting against you. Those days are discouraging, but they will happen. All you have to do is fight back and show all of those who do not see your full potential who’s boss. This confidence in yourself, your identity, and your desires will not only show others how determined you are, but it will also provide a clearer path for a better understanding of your own life and what you want out of it. Focus on your goals, your passions, and your happiness, and you will find that what you actually want is staring you right in the face.
Cox, Matthew, Travis J. Tritten, Brendan McGarry, Brendan McGarry and Hope Hodge Seck, Lolita C. Baldor, Wyatt Olson, and Ashley Rowland. “Women in the Military.” Military.com. Military.com, 2016. Web. 07 Dec. 2016. <http://www.military.com/topics/women-in-the-military>.
Harden, Seth. “Women in the Military Statistics.” Statistic Brain. N.p., 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 07 Dec. 2016. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/women-in-the-military-statistics/>.