UNL students accept dual role of student and officer trainee
By Ryan Pritchard, NewsNetNebraska
Going to college is tough for almost all new freshman, but some decide to make it even harder.
Think 8:30 class is early? Try 5:45 a.m.
Every day at that hour, after wiping the sleep out of their eyes and making sure they are within military grooming standards, members of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Officer Training Corps make their way to Cook Pavilion.
As a senior in the Air Force ROTC program, Katlynn Lindsay has done this for four years. Every week, she devotes at least eight hours to the program, all in hopes of becoming an officer in the United States military.
“The time commitment is rough but it is well worth it,” Lindsay said. “I’m ready to be done.”
Christopher Payer is in a similar situation. However, he still has one more year left in the program before he graduates.
“Every year, there is more responsibility put on me which translates into more time spent at the (Military and Naval Science Building),” Payer said.
Both Air Force ROTC cadets are seeking a commission as an officer, thus earning them more pay and more responsibility.
“At 18-years-old, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, it just seemed like a challenge so I decided to try it out,” Lindsay said. “Four years later and a few weeks from commissioning, I am still here.”
This May, the day before the graduation ceremony, 23 UNL students will be sworn in as officers in their branch of the military. It’s the end of their college career, and the start of their military one.
They’ll get new duties, but the uniform will be familiar.
The Navy and Marine Corps wear their uniforms on Tuesdays while the Air Force and Army wear theirs on Thursday.
“It’s really weird walking around campus when in uniform for the first few weeks of ROTC as a freshman,” Payer said. “But it’s because we are willing to do something that many of our peers were not willing to do: serve under the flag of the United States.
“Sometimes it feels weird when people look at you, like when you have to wait for the walk signal even when there are no cars around.”.
Although the cadets may dress differently from their peers a few days a week, they are pursuing majors just like any other college student. ROTC cadets and midshipmen are college students first and officer trainees second.
“I have to be smarter than most of my colleagues, especially on the weekend, because one mistake could ruin my hopes at a career,” Lindsay said. “I know plenty of people who get MIPs, or even worse DUIs, so it would be easy for me to get myself into that situation.
“But I have to hold myself accountable because once I signed that contract, I became a government asset.”
It’s not all bad, however.
Many ROTC students enjoy their training, or at least the opportunities ROTC has gotten them.
“The training can get tough, but everything I have been able to do is well worth it,” Payer said. “I have carried the colors at football games, been involved in a POW/MIA remembrance day and met a Vietnam POW.
“After all those things are said and done, the woes of training are worth it.”
So what is it that makes these students want to pursue something that takes away free time throughout their college career?
“I want to serve my country,” Payer said. “My father was in the Army for over 20 years and it has always been something I wanted to pursue.”
“The ability to travel,” Lindsay said. “The military gives me the ability to travel around the United States and abroad as well, which is pretty cool.”
For all the time these students sacrifice and all the stares they endure, these students become the next generation of the United States military.
“If I had to do my college career all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Payer said.