University of Cincinnati Army ROTC prepares students for their 'next'

Dec. 2 ceremony unveils where they are heading for their first Army Branch

Dec. 2, 2022, is a big day for Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) students at UC — they find out what the next four years of their life will be like including what U.S. city they will call home.

For 27-year-old Army ROTC student Emily Almazan-Lacy, change is pretty much the norm. The mother of two was born in California, moved to Northern Kentucky as a teenager and enlisted in the Army shortly after she graduated from high school. Almazan-Lacy, along with her husband who is also enlisted in the Army, spent the next six years in Germany. She completed her associates degree online and then enrolled at UC in 2021 to complete a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Cadet Almazan-Lacy standing with her family on UC's campus

Army ROTC Cadet Emily Almazan-Lacy with her family on UC's Uptown campus.

“Moving to Cincinnati and being on a traditional university campus was a big culture shock,” says Almazan-Lacy. "Being a college student at 27 is difficult to adjust to. Not really in a negative way but I am almost doing life backwards compared to a traditional path of education to family to kids.”

Almazan-Lacy says the Army ROTC program has been very supportive of both her academic and personal challenges.

“The Army really takes a holistic view at developing cadets. They spend their days training athletically, working on leadership and soft skills and learning inside and outside the classroom,“ says professor of Military Science Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Laakso. “Academics and athletics play a big part in their training, and we work with them every step of the way to ensure they have the resources and support network needed to succeed both inside and outside the classroom.”

The Army really takes a holistic view at developing cadets. They spend their days training athletically, working on leadership and soft skills and learning inside and outside the classroom.

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Laakso, professor of Military Science

UC’s Army ROTC program strives to prepare students physically, academically, and mentally to be successful in a competitive environment. The training and experiences students gain provides them with a foundation to become commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army and embark on specialized training in their first Army branch following graduation.

And for UC Army ROTC students, they learn what the next phase of their life will be like and where it will take place on December 2 during their Branching Ceremony.

Laasko says leadership skills and grades are big factors in the ranking system used to place cadets in their next role. Cadets essentially build a resume while in ROTC to help them become more competitive and earn the location and job they want following graduation.

Cadets can choose to commission in Active Duty, National Guard or Reserves. Between April and August cadets select their path and then submit a ranked list of their preferred jobs and locations for active duty or preferred unit locations for reserve or guard. Then they participate in interviews for their desired positions and locations.

At the end of August, senior administrators within the U.S. Army review cadet interviews and resumes and determine how they rank and match-up for their positions or units of choice. In October cadets receive feedback on whether they are considered a good fit for their preferred jobs, locations, or units. They are then given the month of November to adjust their ranked list of preferences based on preliminary feedback from Army administrators.

UC cadets compete with cadets from around the country for their preferred positions, locations, and units.

“I will say I am stressed out,” says Almazan-Lacy. “It is exciting, but I am nervous because I am being ranked nationally and am competing against about 3500 cadets for active duty. There are 150 to 200 positions for each job and having served in the Army already I know which jobs I want and don’t want.”

Like Almazan-Lacy, Army ROTC cadet Jeri Avery is also both nervous and excited for what she will learn on Dec. 2. But rather than going into active duty like Almazan-Lacy, Avery has chosen to commission in the National Guard. She is applying to become a member of the national guard unit in the states of the universities she has applied to for graduate school. As a member of the National guard, Avery will be required to go to training one weekend a month and for two weeks during the summer throughout her career in the Army.

Cadet Jeri Avery leads a drill

Jeri Avery leads fellow Army ROTC cadets in a drill activity.

“I have applied to universities and guard units in Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming, Texas and Colorado,” says Avery.

Avery, who grew up in Cincinnati and attended Walnut Hills High School, is earning a UC degree in psychology. She plans to earn a graduate degree that focuses on health disparities that affect the black community and then attend law school so she can practice civil rights law.

Avery says UC’s Army ROTC program has really helped her grow as a person.

“I was quiet …more introverted before joining ROTC. I didn’t like public speaking and the program has helped me learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve learned how to lead people, collaborate with my peers, and have really worked on my communication skills both written and oral.”

Both Avery and Almazan-Lacy say the Branching Ceremony on Dec. 2 is what they’ve been working towards for the past two years and it will define their future.

“It is a big decision point in their life,” says Major Michael Cary, assistant professor of Military Science. “They find out what they will be doing for the next four to six years and that could take place anywhere in the U.S.”

Avery and Almazan-Lacy say they feel prepared for this next chapter and their future thanks to the Army ROTC program.

Founded in 1916, the Army ROTC covers the cost of tuition while students attend college and train to become an Army Officer. At UC, students can enroll in the Amry ROTC program as a college elective for up to two years with no obligation. UC’s ROTC program combines time in the classroom with hands-on experience to acquire job skills whether students seek a career in the army or civilian employment.

Branching ceremony update

During the Dec. 2 Branching ceremony, UC Army ROTC Cadet Emily Almazan-Lacy learned she will become a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer. She will spend 17 weeks in training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Cadet Jeri Avri is awaiting acceptance into graduate programs and should learn more in the coming weeks.  

Become a Bearcat

Graduate program application fees are waived for Veteran and active duty military members through Dec. 31, 2022. Apply today.

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