Not many classmates know that I used to be an Army ROTC cadet, but indeed I was – and one of the biggest takeaways from my experience was this: ROTC isn’t just a class. Army isn’t just a job. It is a lifestyle.
For three years I bled, sweat, cried, and panted next to my battle buddies.
For three years I woke up at 0530 five days a week to attend mandatory workout sessions from 0600 to 0730.
For three years I washed my ACUs and re-attached my patches just to get them dirty again.
For three years I, a five-foot, 130 lbs. Asian girl who was one of the youngest in my class, traversed through rough terrain; climbed hills with 30 pounds strapped to my back; passed physical fitness tests and weigh-ins; slept in the woods under 30 degree weather with just a sleeping bag; climbed up 30 foot ropes, ran four long miles; and marched six miles with a 90 pound pack.
I did all this while also going to University of Portland as a full-time student.
If I wasn’t a UP student, I was an AROTC cadet.
If I wasn’t studying for my next Theology exam I was making sure I knew how to plot coordinates on a map or was memorizing squad tactics.
If I wasn’t in my room highlighting a business textbook, I was practicing how to “Knock Out a Bunker” and learning how to shoot my M-16 semi-auto assault rifle.
ROTC was intense and I did not envy the nursing students who also had to juggle ROTC with their crazy night classes and mandatory clinic hours.
When I entered my third year it was twice as hard.
That year, we were not only pushed harder, we were also expected to teach the younger cadets and lead them through the courses.
The Cadre pushed us like never before because at the end of that year we were expected to put our skills to the ultimate test: LDAC.
LDAC is a summer leadership camp that ROTC cadets need to attend and pass either their third or fourth year. If you fail camp, you cannot commission to become an officer.
ROTC was difficult and it was worth every moment I spent with them. With each obstacle I proved to myself that I could do more than I ever thought I could.
However, the soldier’s life is exactly that: A Soldier’s Life.
I had to dedicate almost all my time to ROTC, a fast-paced and high-stress environment.
After three years I finally realized that this lifestyle wasn’t for me and I continue to commend all my buddies who made it through the tough training and will be pinned as Second Lieutenants in May.
Though my time with the Army has ended, I still carry their values (loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage, and selfless service) and utilize all their lessons with me through school, work, and everyday life.
So, although I’ve chosen to set the ACU aside and pass my rifle on to the next cadet, I really haven’t given up that Army lifestyle.
One of my favorite memories was when I asked one of my instructors if I’d be good for the Air Force instead.
He laughed and said, “Pascua, you’re too tough for the Air Force. You’ve been in the Army way too long.”
Hoorah, Sergeant. Hoorah.