This week, we're sitting down with Tsikata Apenyo, University of Portland graduate and ROTC Alumni. We asked him a few questions to learn more about his experience with ROTC, as we've heard many students in our network wanting to learn more. Let's get started!
What made you want to go down an ROTC track in college?
My parents were immigrants, and for me, joining ROTC and eventually becoming an officer in the Army was a way to help give back to this country for all that it has done for me and my family.
Where did you go to school/join ROTC?
I went to the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon. I was awarded a full Army ROTC scholarship after applying once I got to campus as a freshman.
What was the best part of the experience?
The people I met who still are some of my closest friends. I met most of my ROTC cohort as a freshman in college and I was able to interact with them through ROTC classes, ROTC activities, or ROTC physical fitness workouts literally every single day for 4 years. As a result we became extremely close and we were there to support each other during our worst lows and also celebrate during the highest highs.
ROTC (and the military as a whole) is truly a very close family. You will meet people who you can reach out to whenever for help or guidance. Many times you might not even know someone but as soon as they know you are part of the military, you both immediately have a connection.
Most challenging part of the experience?
I did not come from a military family, so it was initially tough to figure out the 'military language'. The military uses a lot of acronyms and phrases that make no sense to most people! However, after a very short time in any ROTC program, you will be quickly caught up to speed.
How did the experience help you figure out what you wanted to do post-college?
ROTC gives you a vast network of resources that you can draw upon. Though we are still normal college students, we take a few extra class that teach you about 'real-life stuff' such as how to manage your finances, buying a house, etc. Moreover, regardless of what you do as a major/minor in college completing an ROTC program means that you are guaranteed a job in the military as an officer. Since almost all military officer jobs allow you to lead others, you will have highly saught after skillsets whenever you decide to leave the military.
How is ROTC still playing a part in your professional world today?
After ROTC, each person commissions into one of the US military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc). You are either able to go into Active Duty or Reserve service. Active duty is a full time job and it gives you the opportunity to travel the world and live in really cool places like Korea of Germany. Reserves, which I do, is more of a part time obligation. I report to my reserve unit for one weekend a month to fulfill my obligation. This is a great option for people who want to serve but still want a civilian job or are going back to school.
Any other tips on resources for ROTC, prepping, scholarships, planning, etc?
I would recommend you reach out to as many people as possible. Every ROTC person I know is extremely happy to talk about their experience and offer advice. Regarding scholarships, applying for an ROTCscholarship during high school is extremely competitive. If you are unable to get one then, there are plenty of opportunities to earn a scholarship once you matriculate college!
Tsikata Apenyo is a medical student and formerly served as a Fulbright Fellow. He graduated with honors from the University of Portland where he was a member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He received a commission from ROTC and currently serves as a Lieutenant Officer in the United States Army.