As an Air Force Cadet at Wellesley, I have developed a good friendship with the Local Motion bus. The handful of us here are known as “crosstown cadets” because we commute in order to participate in MIT’s ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program. Each week, we have a class and a Leadership Laboratory, where we are taught the traditions and history of the Air Force, learn to march, practice leadership skills and participate in other training activities. My experience with the program has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I can tell you that it is well worth the hour-long commute.
In addition to all of the insanely cool and interesting opportunities that AFROTC offers — from flying aircrafts to summer language programs to indoor skydiving — my favorite part has been getting to know the people in the program. Our detachment includes cadets from MIT, Harvard, Tufts and Wellesley, which means that I have met many interesting, intelligent people whose aspirations and reasons for joining are very different from my own. I get to hang out with a lot of aerospace engineering majors, but also cadets who are political science majors and aspiring lawyers. Although uniformity is an important aspect of military life — we have to march and do our hair in the same way, and we wear the same uniform — every individual brings something unique to the program. I am not a STEM major, but the Air Force is not only made of engineers or even pilots; we have dentists and lawyers and intelligence officers, too. I find it is interesting that all of the cadets I know will end up in such different places when they graduate and commission into the Air Force as Second Lieutenants.
What appeals to me about ROTC, though, is not only that the program gives me the chance to be a part of a community with diverse interests: ROTC has been such an excellent experience because of the values that unite us. Whether we want to be pilots or scientists or neither, something made each of us want to do so in uniform. There is an intense camaraderie that comes with waking up early to work out and struggling to get our hair into a sleek bun, and there is also a shared sense of purpose.
I am not from a military family. I am from Colorado Springs, however, which is a big Air Force town, and I am close with people who are serving or have served. Some of them became my closest mentors and friends, and I admired their strength, wisdom and integrity. The Air Force people in my town inspired me to try AFROTC because I look up to them as genuinely interesting, skilled and kind people. When it came time to look at colleges, I had no idea what to study, but I knew that a career as an officer would allow me to become a better leader and have a career that is meaningful, whatever it ends up looking like.
Being a cadet from Wellesley seems odd because the experience of attending a small, historically women’s liberal arts college is so different from the military, a huge, male-dominated organization. At first, it was difficult for me to reconcile these two opposing aspects of my life. Having spent more time in the program, I now think that what we learn in AFROTC meshes well with my experience at Wellesley; in learning to be an effective leader, I am learning how to be a better advocate for equality and how to support my fellow wingmen and wingwomen. I have met some of the strongest, most inspiring women I know through the Air Force. They are all smart and capable — and they can do a lot of pushups. The military is certainly still male-dominated, but things are changing. Just this February, the lyrics of our Air Force song were changed to replace the line that included “the men we boast” to “those we boast” to be more inclusive.
Small, symbolic changes like this make me excited to be part of the military in a time of transition, and the support I have felt among women in the Air Force is incredibly strong. This is not to say that there is not work left to do, but that the women I know make me confident that this work will get done. I have become very close with my fellow Wellesley cadets from our morning workouts and many rides on the Local Motion, which I have really come to enjoy. The deep sense of loyalty and pride that we have within our group of Wellesley cadets makes me feel grateful for the support that I have found here and excited for the future. If you are interested in learning more about the ROTC, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.