By Sara Kay
Elizabeth Tully, 18, of Massapequa Park, NY, is making big strides towards a hopeful career in the military.
Q: What made you decide to join ROTC?
A: I have always wanted to join the military since I was little. My three brothers and my father were in the military, so I guess I kind of dreamed about it from their stories and the way I admired them. At one point I wanted to do active duty because the bonus is immediate and I felt like me and my mom could use the money especially after my dad died. But since I was 17 when I joined, she made me do ROTC instead in order to go through college. The full tuition is also a plus.
Q: Is there a reason you are interested in combat?
A: I think I want to get as close to combat as I can because it’s the most difficult and demanding job in the Army. I want to push myself to my limits physically and mentally.
Q: Do you feel pressure to get involved in another field of the army, instead of combat, because you’re a girl?
A: There is hardly any pressure to push women into specific fields. In our battalion we are motivated by the cadre to pursue our career choice. The only way to guarantee your position is to excel in school and get good scores on the PT [physical training] test. Women are banned from the infantry and artillery branches, because of the high probability of direct combat. My career choice is to be an MP (military police). This is the closest women can get to combat.
Q: Have you ever done anything embarrassing in front of your superior?
A: Oh do I have embarrassing stories! The day after Halloween I was out all night, without any sleep I headed to PT to play soccer and in front of the colonel I continued to kick the ball the wrong way for the entirety of the game. During last semesters FTX [Field Training Exercises] at West Point, we conducted a drill on how to respond to an enemy ambush. The master-sergeant followed us in order to grade us and provide feedback. We were traveling down a steep rocky cliff with our weapons, and it was raining and extremely slippery. We were expected to move swiftly, and in complete silence. Of course as I traveled down the rocks I tripped, busted my ass and slid down the incline. I looked up and the master sergeant was shaking his head trying not to laugh at me.
Q: What is your favorite part of being in ROTC?
A: My favorite part about ROTC is definitely the training. I’ve increased my physical abilities because of the program, and I get a good workout three days a week. Also, I’ve learned to be more organized, responsible and motivated.
Q: How do you plan to use your experiences in ROTC after you serve in the military?
A: My experiences in ROTC will definitely help me in future careers. The training we receive now is not only physical; the point is to turn you into a leader. We learn management skills, communication skills and learn to be confident in whatever we do.
Q: Describe a typical day for you, including any physical activity you have to do.
A: I wake up at 5:50 am in order to be at PT by 6:15. During PT we concentrate on specific workouts so it can be upper-body which may involve ridiculous amounts of push-ups, bear crawls, pull-ups, etc. Cardio is by far the worst, running almost three miles and singing cadences gets extremely annoying. We occasionally do pool exercises or ruck marches also. After every PT which ends at 7:30, I have to change out of uniform and run to my 8am class. Thursdays we have lab and we go over land navigation and tactical movements.
Q: What is the most difficult part of being in the program?
A: The commitment. Some cadets are not contracted, meaning they have little responsibility and aren’t held to high standards. Being contracted means you took the oath, and signed your name on an army contract. We have to make every PT, put aside one weekend every semester to train at West Point and commit eight years of service after school. It’s not for everyone.
Q: Even though you’ve only been in ROTC for less than a year, how do you think it has changed you as a person?
A: My short experience in ROTC has changed me in great ways. I am more responsible and independent. I have my college paid for; I have to manage my stipend and my time. I contracted when I was 17 so I feel like I went from being a kid to being an adult over night. The program also allowed me to increase my physical abilities and push myself.
Q: Describe your favorite experience so far in ROTC, and why you enjoyed it so much.
A: My favorite experience in ROTC was the FTX at West Point. For three days we lived in barracks, trained in the mountains and barely slept. A helicopter dumped us in the middle of nowhere, and we hiked 4 miles to the training point in full gear. After that, we went over drills, night land navigation and learned important tactics. I think it was the FTX that made me realize this is what I wanted to do with my life, and what a good choice I made.
Q: Are you scared of the possibility of going to Iraq or Afghanistan after graduation?
A: Absolutely not. I would be honored to serve my country abroad in combat, and I’m willing to accept the dangers of my career choice. Two of my brothers and my father have served combat, and I’ve had discussions on the effects and emotional implications of those situations. When I contracted in the army, part of my oath involved my willingness to bear arms for my country in times of need. As a soldier, one of the army values we must live by is selfless service, and I truly believe in this concept. When it comes down to it, too many people don’t support our country’s efforts, and can’t even comprehend what it means to be dedicated, selfless and willing to give the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect everything else around us. I was raised to believe that these few people have to step up, and commit themselves to our country.
Q: What are your feelings about women not being able to be in combat?
A: Double standards exist in the army in order to make tests and physical boundaries fair. Men are stronger and faster naturally. I believe in order for women to serve combat, these double standards would have to be overlooked, and the few women that could pass the male standards and meet every quality necessary to serve infantry or artillery, should be considered. Also, positions such as military police, transportation, etc. face the same dangers daily in the Middle East. Although many women feel that the right to combat should be granted, many factors make this almost impossible. Family values, sex abuse in secluded units, etc. Our country may not be ready to see young women coming home in body bags because of traditional cultural values.
Q: How does your mom feel about you going into the army?
A: This is a funny question. My mother had to sign my contract for me because I was 17 at the time. I remember the day I contracted she was late, and she asked what I would do if she didn’t show up. Although my entire family has military backgrounds, my mom still has trouble with my career choice. I know she isn’t happy still for little reasons. I know it takes families a lot of time to come to terms with a military lifestyle.