Diversity—More than skin deep: Heather McColl and the ROTC

This story is part of a series taking a look at the different faces of Asbury College.

by Ashleigh Graves, a junior applied communications major

WILMORE, KY—At Asbury College, leadership is a principle that guides everything from academics to athletics. For senior Heather McColl and her fellow ROTC members, leadership is a lifestyle that goes a step beyond the norm.

“I’ve never encountered an atmosphere so conducive to student leadership and the development of stewardship,” McColl said.

The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, is one of the most intensive leadership courses in the country. Students enrolled in the program function as military recruits, incorporating tactical and field training into their college curriculum. Graduates of the ROTC program earn the bar of Second Lieutenant and commit to three or four years of active duty.

McColl started on her military track well before she came to college.

“I knew about ROTC in high school,” said McColl from San Pedro, Calif. “I came from a military family background. I applied for a national ROTC scholarship and received one for three years.”

McColl and her unit regularly train together and participate in weekend labs and field excursions—learning everything from marksmanship to tactical skills. McColl says that while there is a vigorous physical component to everything the ROTC teaches, the focus is on speed, intelligence and agility.

“The point is to be able to execute the technical tasks under fire,” McColl said.

ROTC students in military training While students in the ROTC take their military training commitment very seriously, they are also expected to show dedication to their education.

“I’m an English and Spanish double major. I have found it challenging at times to change gears so quickly, but it’s been very rewarding. Every year I’m finding new ways to integrate it,” McColl said.

She acknowledges that the ROTC is not for everyone, but she finds that the program works well with life at the College.

“I think that Asbury affords students a chance to be focused on questions of citizenships—both of this country and of the world. It creates an environment in which true excellence, real camaraderie, real individual excellence can occur.”

McColl says that sometimes people are surprised to discover that the woman behind the camouflage is passionate about music, dance, literature and language.

“The ROTC program is one more way that Asbury College is exploring issues of women’s vocation. What Asbury and ROTC make possible is exploration of the roles of women as warriors and women in technical fields.”

ROTC training also gives Asbury recruits the opportunity to interact with people of vastly different backgrounds from colleges and universities all over the state. McColl says exploring faith in the context of military service has been challenging and illuminating.

“It’s a different world, it really is. But anyone who gets involved with the military will quickly discover that God is very much at work with leadership and individuals, in their lives and their work,” she says.

When McColl graduates from Asbury in December 2006, she will begin her four years of active duty with the U.S. Army. Although she would ultimately love to work with military intelligence or go to graduate school, she says that she is open to whatever God has for her future.

“There are a lot of possibilities,” she said. “I never thought that I would be a career officer, but I know plenty of people who never envisioned that they would stay in till retirement and vice versa. I plan to make those eight years of full active duty and then reserve duty the best that I can. I look forward to those years as an opportunity to serve, to explore what servant leadership is in that environment and to give back to my country.”

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