Every Wednesday, Hunter Graham ’20 drives to the University of Vermont to attend a Military Science class as part of the Reserve Officers Training Core (ROTC) of the Army. ROTC offers college students a path into military service, in addition to offering financial assistance to help pay for college.
According to the Army website, ROTC prides itself on being a leadership program and providing job opportunities to college graduates in Active Duty jobs as well as in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves. Graham has been a part of ROTC since the beginning of this semester.
“ROTC, and serving in general, were always things I considered in high school, but I think I was too afraid to try. Once I had more information, because I started talking to people at UVM and the other cadets, it became clear that this is something that I could really do,” Graham said. “It has added a whole other element of my college life, another really big friend group that can understand you better than people at Middlebury in some ways.”
Graham explained that when she attends class at UVM, the cadets in the program are split up by year. “The one’s have a relatively easy, introductory course,” she said. “The two’s course is a bit more challenging. The third year is the most important — it is the year that determines what branch of the Army they will go into.” Graham has also attended some labs to gain more experience. “Sometimes instead of or in addition to class there is a longer ‘lab’ that gives more hands on experience,” she said. “The only labs that I have been to are at a military base in Burlington called Camp Johnson.”
In addition to the educational aspect of the program, the cadets must complete an intensive training regiment. Since Graham and fellow Middlebury ROTC member Steve Bissainthe ’18 do not live in Burlington, they stay in shape by attending a work-out class at Middlebury called CATS twice a week.
According to Graham, she decided to pursue the program as a way to be involved in something important. “I became interested in it when I saw the life I could have if I was willing to make sacrifices and put in the work,” she said. “There are so many opportunities that only the military can give you, and not all of them put you on the front lines. I could graduate and take an educational leave to go to medical school, or go into military intelligence. I joined because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. The military is about as big as you can get.”
Graham also has a unique perspective, as a woman in the male-dominated program. She says there are five women in her class of 25, and that half of the women are in the nursing program. “I do not feel any different as a girl in the program,” she said. “Women wear the same uniform and keep their hair in a low bun. The upperclassmen in the program that I look up to are all women, except for Steve, of course. There are two seniors in charge of the group each year, one per semester, and they usually choose a woman as one of the leaders. There are some really badass women in the program who will do amazing things.”
Graham says her favorite part of the experience so far has been the people. “It is nice to get off campus and be around a new group of people. Everyone I have met has been so welcoming and so real,” she said. “The UVM cadets are all amazing. The Green Mountain Battalion is one of the best in the country and I am lucky to be a part of the family.”
The program has been challenging for Graham. “It’s been hard to do something so out of the ordinary,” she said. “I’m excited and nervous to see what it will be like to wear the uniform on campus, something that will happen every Wednesday.” Graham also said it was hard to join part way through the year and catch up on the content in the science class.
Another challenge has been how disconnected ROTC is from her experience at Middlebury. Graham made the decision to join ROTC without talking to any college administrators. “I have spoken to no college administration or the registrar about this,” she said. “We don’t get a class credit for taking another class, that has as much work and a huge time commitment. There is no college support other than our friends and the different articles written about it.”
Despite the challenges, Graham has found her friends to be very supportive of her participation. “I’ve really appreciated all of the love and support my friends have shown in this. I think a lot of people are confused about what it is, or think that it’s something foreign and unusual, when it’s unusual that there’s no program at Middlebury.”
According to Graham, if all goes according to plan, she intends to continue with the program for the rest of her time in college.