When Ramiro Jimenez joined Illinois State University as a social work major, little did he know that he would one day represent the United States in an international program that would change his life and provide a learning experience that went way beyond the classroom.
Jimenez knew he wanted to join the military but he also wanted to go to college. He chose to study at Illinois State because it provided him the perfect opportunity to pursue his degree of choice and start his journey toward becoming a U.S. Army Officer.
As a member of the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Illinois State, Jimenez has earned the title of the cadet. Cadet Jimenez had a summer experience that was much different from his fellow college students. He participated in the Army’s Cultural Understanding & Leadership Program (CULP), a three-week training experience where cadets travel outside of the United States to develop intercultural awareness and improve their foreign language proficiency skills. CULP strengthens strategic relationships among countries and develops cadets into global leaders.
In the summer of 2017 Jimenez trained with the Polish Army alongside other cadets from different parts of the world. He described the Polish soldiers as “very kind people who are extremely humble.” He had the privilege of talking to the locals about the history and development of Poland. Jimenez spoke to a Polish citizen who experienced the transition of Poland from a communist state to a democratic state and described that as a kid, his mother would give him a lot of money for food but there would be no food to buy. He now expresses satisfaction that the economy was now thriving. Jimenez’s consciousness about other cultures and the history of other countries became very important at that moment.
Jimenez describes going to Poland as a very inspiring and humbling experience. He met outstanding soldiers who shared stories of how they handled difficult situations, and this increased his motivation to want to become an officer within the Army. For example, he had the opportunity to meet the first female leaders in the Polish Army who left him feeling inspired.
One of the highlights of the program for Jimenez was training with the Multi-National Brigade in Poland. This gave him the opportunity to learn from officers in the Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian military. During his time training with the officers, he discovered that the different militaries worked closely and had similar strategies to prepare for some worst-case scenarios.
Summarizing his experience, Jimenez expressed gratitude for the special opportunity to represent the country while in college. “I look forward to graduating from college and becoming a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and I hope to someday visit Poland again.”
On balancing his college career with his pursuit of becoming a military officer, Jimenez believes that the Army ROTC is very committed to academic excellence and has provided mentorship that has helped him a great deal. He also loves being a part of the Army ROTC because according to him, “as a social work major, one of the most important things to me is ensuring that people’s lives are made better, and being a part of the U.S. Army gives me the opportunity to do so. I would want to make sure all my soldiers are well taken care of at all times.”
Being a part of the Army ROTC has brought tremendous opportunities to Jimenez.
“Army ROTC has given me the opportunity to stay in college,” Jimenez said. “Every semester, they offer tuition waivers to cadets, which has helped me tremendously throughout my collegiate career. Army ROTC is meant to build tomorrow’s leaders. The cadets’ development of leadership skills starts with understanding their role as a member of a small team, what the Army calls a squad. They progress from being a squad member to being a team leader, responsible for one or two other fellow cadets in a direct leadership role. In their junior year, cadets take on the leadership responsibilities of squad leaders where they supervise, direct, and lead seven to nine other cadets. They can also serve as platoon sergeants who supervise four squads and all the cadets assigned to them. Throughout this time, the cadets learn the basics of military maneuvers that they will have to use during their time at ROTC Advanced Camp.”
About the Army ROTC
The Army ROTC is open to all students. With cadets in over 40 majors, Army ROTC provides students the tools to become army officers through classes and field training, while students pursue a college degree of their choice. It places emphasis on leadership through various programs, one of which is the ROTC Advanced Camp, a 37-day military skills and leadership assessment that every cadet in the United States undergoes during the summer of their junior and senior years in college. Also, cadets are encouraged to serve as leaders of the ROTC program during their senior year and take on leadership roles of the platoon leader, company commander, battalion staff, and battalion commander.
The Army ROTC is also very involved in campus activities. Every year, the Redbird Battalion collaborates with the Illinois State women’s soccer team to conduct a preseason workout to enable team building. Among other scholarships available, Illinois State Army ROTC receives 40 Illinois State tuition waivers. When asked about some ROTC achievements, Lt. Col. John Cross, professor in the Department of Military Science, had this to say:
“In the military arena, the Battalion has commissioned 23 officers into the active duty, 20 officers into the National Guard, and seven officers into the Army Reserve. We have had 10 Distinguished Military Graduates, cadets who rank in the top 20 percent of all cadets in ROTC throughout the nation, over that same span. I am particularly proud of the efforts of our Ranger Challenge Team in placing third for the last two years in our regional competition. Ranger Challenge is a military skills competition that encompasses a wide variety of mentally and physically challenging tasks. The Ranger Challenge Team has set the stage for continued success for many years to come.”
“In addition, the cadets volunteer their time by helping with American Red Cross blood drives on campus, helping run local 5K races for various charities, and collecting items from students at the end of each semester for the Bloomington Housing Authority to reuse. The Battalion regularly sponsors blood drives on campus and is a large supporting element during the Homecoming festivities by helping with both the 5K and the Parade. We have cadets involved in campus intramurals, club sports, NCAA sports, student government, honor societies, and Greek Life. As I have made my way around campus over the last three years, I always seem to run into one of my cadets who are involved in a number of different activities. While ROTC develops leaders with an eye for military service, the leadership skills the cadets are useful in any endeavor they find themselves.”
To learn more about Army ROTC, visit AROTC.IllinoisState.edu. Connect with CAST at Facebook/ISUSciTech.