WASHINGTON, PA (Feb. 16, 2016) — Four seniors in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) have earned active duty assignments in the United States Army.
Cadets Emma Church, Dakota Holloway, Garett Pyle, and Stephanie Solida will receive their unit assignments in March or April of 2016. A fifth senior, Cadet Ulysses Laman, has commissioned into the U.S. Army Reserves.
The students have been working toward this goal since they began W&J’s ROTC program, and said earning the assignments is both an honor, and a perfect way to end their time in a program that has meant so much to them.
“I decided to join ROTC long before I got to W&J,” said Pyle, a Computing and Information Studies major from Farmington, Pa. “I come from a long line of individuals who have served in the United States military, stretching back to the American Revolution … Growing up, I always wanted to serve this great nation.”
The process for receiving an active duty assignment is competitive. A student’s college major, grade point average, campus involvement, physical fitness and leadership initiative are all considered, resulting in the student’s national ranking within the ROTC program.
Major Joseph Masserini, W&J’s ROTC instructor, said more than 5,600 students nationwide commission each year; about half of those students receive an active duty assignment. Five students from a college of W&J’s size is abnormally high, he said, and is unusual for a program that is relatively new.
“The best part of this process is that most of this is within the cadet’s power. They control their GPA and their physical fitness, they choose to volunteer and help in the community,” he said. “This says something about the caliber of our students. This says something about W&J.”
The ROTC program at W&J began in 1948, but was withdrawn in 1991 as part of a cost-saving strategy in the military. It was reinstated in 2011, and is an elective curriculum that students can take along with their regular academic courses. The program is open to students in any major. W&J’s ROTC program currently has 19 members.
Solida, a biology major from Rimersburg, Pa., said her time in ROTC has increased her confidence and influenced her leadership style.
“I have learned a lot about my own leadership style and how to refine it. I have learned to be patient and to trust people. I have learned how to stand my ground, and also how to help other people develop,” she said. “My ROTC classmates are all extraordinary people and I would never have been able to make it through the program without them. They’ve taught me how important it is to lean on other people and to have each other’s backs.”
Her fellow cadets echoed that seniment, and said their ROTC training will contribute to their success in their careers, and influence their commitment to their communities. Church said her goal is to become a clinical psychologist for the military, helping soldiers and their families work through psychological issues, including mental illness.
“There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental awareness and the military is currently struggling to combat it,” she said. “I want to be a part of the change as a voice for the soldiers.”
Solida also is considering a career in mental health care or in another branch of medicine after she has completed her active duty service.
Following what Pyle hopes will be a lengthy career in the Army, he plans to pursue a a job in the logistics field, and also wants to attend carpentry school, eventually opening a business to restore antiques.
That MAJ Masserini is proud of his students goes without saying. He said the students’ patriotism, dedication and energy have re-energized him, and he has no doubt that their futures are bright.
“I have zero doubts that the Army is gaining five great future officers, four on active duty, which is fantastic,” he said. “I know there are soldiers out there who are looking for the officer they can follow, who is able to set that example and lead the way in ambiguous times and that’s what we have. I have no doubt the cadets graduating this year can do that for people. I get excited when I think about it.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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