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Honoring Our Nation’s Finest on Campus

By: Konnor Smith

An insight into what ROTC does outside of the pushup board during football games.

Payton McNabb is a junior, studying International Business at Oklahoma State. As Veterans Day is just around the corner, I wanted to ask him about his experience as a member of ROTC. Below, he shed some light on what exactly ROTC looks like on our campus, and what the military means to him.

What exactly is the ROTC?

“ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corp, and is basically a route to become an officer in the United States Army. Until your junior year, ROTC is just an elective that anyone can be involved in, but your junior year you must make the decision to either drop the course or stay with the program and become a contracted cadet- which means that you have taken the oath to serve your country as a future officer upon graduation from college. ROTC consists of two class sessions per week, where we learn instruction on tactics, training, and leadership skills. Then a lab on Wednesday afternoons where we go train in a practical environment to put our skills learned in the classroom to use, and PT sessions three times a week at five in the morning. ROTC is a great tool to pursue a career in the military, whether that be a reserve or active duty component.”

What did the application or process of joining look like?

“To get the scholarship I received, I simply had to do an interview with the Professor of Military Science, and it was up to them to decide if I should be awarded a scholarship. Otherwise, ROTC is an elective course that any freshman or sophomore can enroll in. Your junior year is when you must make the big decision if you want to continue and become an army officer or not. If you choose to continue, be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork.”

What made you want to become a member of the ROTC? Do you have any family members in the military?

“Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to join the military. After being denied entry to the United States Military Academy at West Point, I was just planning on enlisting in the army and going from there. Thankfully, I received an opportunity to interview for an ROTC scholarship, and was awarded a four year active duty scholarship. In regards to family in the military, my cousin enlisted in the Air Force and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, and my Grandfather was in the Oklahoma National Guard.”

What are your career goals?

“After commissioning upon graduation, I would like to branch either Field Artillery, Armor, or Infantry, which just means what job you desire to do in the Army. My current game plan is to graduate, attend BOLC (Basic Officer Leader Course), attend Ranger School, and then find my way into an airborne unit, ideally either the 82nd or 173rd. Whether or not I want to make a full 20 year career out of the military is still something I have not yet decided.”

Are you involved in anything else on campus?

“Outside of ROTC, I work in a warehouse and enjoy spending time with my friends. ROTC and school keeps me pretty busy, so I do not have much time to be involved in a lot of other campus activities or clubs. In my free time, I enjoy spending my days outdoors, or finding something fun to do with my friends.”

Who is someone that you look up to? How have they influenced you?

“I consider one of my greatest mentors in ROTC thus far to be Master Sergeant Crosby. He showed me what it means to be a leader, and always pushed me to be the best I could be. I looked up to him in many ways, and always turned to him for advice. He is full of knowledge in every aspect of the army; from his experiences as an enlisted infantryman and at Ranger School, to spiritual and life advice. Although he retired last year, I still keep in touch with him and seek wisdom from him.”

How has ROTC shaped who you are? What does it mean to you?

“ROTC has definitely developed me as a young man, a leader, a friend, and in countless other ways. The experiences I’ve had, the friends and mentors I’ve met along the way, and the lessons learned are something I will cherish for the rest of my life. The beautiful thing about the military is that you can only know people for a short time, but they could have an enormous impact on you as a person. This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend Airborne School at Fort Benning, and even though I was only there for three and a half weeks, the friends I made will last a lifetime. Also, the advice I received from my NCO’s and other leaders is something I will never forget.”

What kind of skills have you gained from ROTC?

“ROTC has taught me many skills, and the opportunities I have received through ROTC have been invaluable as well. Not only have I learned about tactics, maneuvers, and how to write a five paragraph operation order, but I have also learned how to make an MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) not taste like dog food. Extracurricular opportunities from ROTC that have taught me invaluable skills, including being on the Ranger Challenge team for the past three years, attending the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon, and attending Airborne school, which was definitely my favorite military experience so far.”

Does being in ROTC bring about a sense of pride in our country?

“Absolutely. Every time we put on that uniform, we are representing something larger than ourselves. During the national anthem before football games, when I am on the push up board is an unreal experience. It truly makes me proud to be pursuing a career as an officer in the United States Army.”

What does veterans day mean to you?

“Veterans Day is a day to mourn those who fought and died for our country. I am very thankful that Oklahoma State is such a veteran friendly campus. Each year I participate in placing the flags on library lawn, and it hits very hard to know that each flag is more than just a flag. It represents a person that fought for our country, someone who had a family and thoughts, but never returned home. Each of the ID tags placed on the flags has the name of a service member who was killed in combat. Taking time to commemorate their sacrifice for this country is very important to me.”

If someone was looking into joining the ROTC, what advice would you give them?

“Be prepared to go the extra mile, and never give up. It doesn't matter if you’re not the strongest, fastest, or smartest cadet. If you are mentally tough, never quit, and you’re willing to do anything for those you are leading, I guarantee you that you will succeed.”

The passion that Payton has for his country and the military is something that is worth admiring. This Veteran’s Day, go and thank a veteran or active military member that you know. As Ronald Reagan once said: "We owe this freedom of choice and action to those men and women in uniform who have served this nation and its interests in time of need. In particular, we are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we might be free."

Photos by: Maggie Grace Berry


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