The path to becoming an officer

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Temple News website.

Although her classes don’t begin until 10 a.m, junior Emily Leyland can be seen on Main Campus four hours prior.

Leyland starts her day at 5 a.m., when she commutes from Cheltenham on a 20-minute train ride to Temple for the start of her physical training with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she takes part in a morning lift for an hour-long session with the women’s rowing team at 6:30 a.m.

She then reserves her time for classes and homework, before her three-hour rowing practice kicks off at 4 p.m. on the Schuylkill. Around 7 p.m., Leyland then heads home to Cheltenham.

“When I get home, I pretty much pass out and then wake up and do it all again,” Leyland said, laughing.

The junior, who has been a member of the rowing team for the past three seasons, decided to join the ROTC program last spring when the rowing team was among the seven sports teams set to be cut. A former team member encouraged her to join ROTC when she began expressing her interest in working with veterans as a physical therapist after graduation.

Even after the rowing team was reinstated, Leyland remained committed to ROTC program, which is designed to train young men and women to become officers for the military, Lieutenant Colonel Marco Young, Temple ROTC recruiting operation officer and instructor, said.

After her time with the program last spring, Leyland decided to commit to the four-year ROTC program with the intention of joining the military after graduation.

As a result, Leyland said she needed to enroll in a summer course because she had joined the program late. That led her to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where she took part in an intense four-week Leadership Training Course.

“The whole month everything was just ROTC,” Leyland said. “You wake up you do your [physical training], you come back and then depending on what day it is, you would have a little bit of classroom learning, a little bit of field experience where they would run us through simulations and see how we would react. We did a little bit of the tests that the army does.”

“There is the [combat water survival test], which is a water training test,” she added. “So you have to tread water for like five minutes, swim continuously for 10 minutes, swim across the pool with a rifle above your head and things like that. We did ropes courses, [and] some high ropes. I am afraid of heights, so that was interesting.”

When she returned to Temple this fall, Leyland said she was familiar with the different exercises they would perform in the mornings during physical training. But that wasn’t the only thing she brought with her this fall in ROTC.

This fall, two other members of the rowing team also joined the ROTC program – sophomores Nicole Barth and Kaitlin Grisanti.

“I saw that she could do it with rowing and juggle it,” Barth said of Leyland. “So I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I just want to try it.’”

After hearing stories of her grandparents’ involvement in the military, Grisanti knew she wanted to enlist in the military. But it was Leyland and another teammate who convinced her otherwise.

“I have always wanted to be in the military,” Grisanti said. “After [Leyland] talked to me about it and one of the former teammates, Stephanie, exposed me to the option of becoming an officer rather than enlisting and I saw that I can do both.”

Young said having athletes in the ROTC program is “exceptional.”

“They bring a lot to the table,” Young said. “Student-athletes are not only in superb physical condition, but they are also academically astute.”

The women’s rowing coach, Rebecca Grzybowski, said all three ladies have balanced their responsibilities.

“The three who are doing ROTC just have that added responsibility and they do a great job,” Grzybowski said. “It’s not anything that hinders their academic or athletic performances. Being an athlete is all about commitment to a team and something bigger than yourself and ROTC is just an extension of that, something bigger than yourself. So to me, I only see positive things from them being involved in both ROTC and rowing.”

One of the greatest benefits all three said they have learned from ROTC thus far is time management.

“I used to be always be late for everything,” Leyland said. “But in the army, if you are 10 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t even bother showing up. So I am much better about being on time for things than I used to be.”

© Herculean Stars, Inc. All rights reserved.