Podcast: Inside ROTC from the perspective of a woman

Jessica Long, a senior political science major in the ROTC, shares her experiences and perspective of the ROTC as a woman. 

Lauren: So we’re just gonna start off real easy …  just say like your name, year, rank and just tell us like a little about yourself.

Jess: OK so I’m Jessica Long, I’m a senior, so I’m going to graduate in May. So my rank in ROTC right now is Cadet Major. Ranks are kinda pointless in ROTC, it’s mostly just like by like your school age, I guess. Like MS one, two, three, four so it’s like freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. That’s pretty much how we go by like seniority.  So my job, so I’m battalion XO. So for like MS fours we always like run everything since we’re seniors and so I’m in like the top four so it’s like the top four like highest leadership so I’m pretty much in charge of like all the activities and like labs and stuff we do. I don’t necessarily plan it, I just make sure like everybody’s doing their job and like doing it right and just being like ‘Hey you know’ just poking them and like ‘Are you doing this? Are you doing this? Like, have you done this yet?’ That’s pretty much my whole job.

Lauren: Awesome

Jess: Oh, and I’m a political science major.

Lauren: That’s awesome.

Jess: That’s probably important.

Lauren: So, like tell me a little bit about yourself.  What do you like to do on your down time, any hobbies?

Jess: So if I ever get down time, which is usually like never happens, I don’t really have any hobbies. I just really like to like hangout with my friend and like just watch TV and relax like I don’t have any time for hobbies so.

Lauren: I get that. I totally get that.

Jess: Whenever I have free time, it’s just like I just hang out with friends or just sleep or something so.

Lauren: Yeah. So what inspired you to do ROTC? Is this something that like runs in your family or did you just have an interest in it?

Jess: So, I don’t have a lot of military in my family.  I just I think I had some friends back when I was like a preteen. So like 13, 14 I had like some older friends that were about to join and I was like ‘That’s really cool’ so I was like super interested for a long time to like be in the military and I wanna go in the Navy but I graduated high school at 17, so I was like 17 my like whole first year of college. My parents were like ‘well you’re not enlisting at 17 like, no way Jose’ which is probably a good thing. So I was like, well I’ll come to Tech and I asked like if they had Army or ROTC and I was like, ‘I’ll try it’ and then I like did it here again so everyone should just like I’ll try it and I was like I’ll stick with it. That’s pretty much it.

Lauren: That’s awesome. How was it? What was it like your first year? Like in the ROTC?

Jess: Scary. I obviously like didn’t know anything as a freshman so it was very just like, ‘Oh god I don’t know anything and everybody else knows stuff’ so it was just like really intimidating and then I was a lot quieter back then. I mean I was 17 years old, so I was like super quiet and very like, reserved and so I was always just like, ‘Ehh, you know’ But yeah so it was, it was interesting.

Lauren: Where you the only girl in your group?

Jess: No. So I was in MS 1. We probably had like I wanna say five or six girls in the whole class so there was some, and I was like friends with one or two of them, pretty close so.

Lauren: OK. Do you think that made a difference in like your experience having girls there or is it just like you’re still scared?

Jess: Yeah, it kinda helps like I had a lot of guy friends growing up so I wasn’t ever like ‘Ah’ you know ‘Guys’ but yeah I think it helped ‘cause it’s always like you can relate just a little bit differently than with guys.

*slight external noise*

Jess: Sorry.

Lauren: No you’re good

Jess:  You can help relate a little bit different with girls I feel like just with certain situations.  Like you know it’s always just nice to have like have girl talk. I’m really tomboy-ish but it’s still nice to be like, ‘Oh let’s talk about girl stuff for a minute,’ but yeah I think it did help.

Lauren: Do you know how many boys were in your class like compared to girls?

Jess: MS1 year, probably like 20, 25.

Lauren: Wow.

Jess: So yeah, it was very very few.

Lauren: Very few girls and a lot of guys.

Jess: Like, right now so I’m the only female MS 4 so I’m the, out of … we have 14 in our class, I’m the only girl and then for juniors … there’s two girls out of like, I wanna say like 15 again. In the whole battalion I wanna say there’s only like, I wanna say like, six or seven girls out of like 60, 70 guys.

Lauren: Wow.

Jess: So yeah, we’re very very like, there’s not a lot of us. Very few.

Lauren: Why do you think there’s so few women going into this… program?

Jess: That’s a good question. I just think not a lot of girls are like interested in the military I guess you could say. I think on the enlisted side there like a decent amount. I’ve seen with ROTC like they come to college, all right I’m gonna do this like just in general a lot of people don’t want to do ROTC so I just think like geographically already like so few people want to do it and then there’s even less girls, so I don’t really know the reason. I just think it’s rough like I said we had our FTX we literally were like live outside, pee in the woods, like sleep on the ground like don’t get to really like wash, you know, take a shower or anything and so I think just a lot of girls are kinda like, it weeds them out you know?  They just don’t really want to do that stuff.

Lauren: Do you think it’s important for women to look into this because I know that on the enlisted side there is like a pretty decent amount of women but like on this campus I mean there could be girls that are interested in like camping and the outdoors that might want to look into you know, enrolling in the ROTC program.

Jess: Yeah like why. What was? Like what was your question?

Lauren: Um, like do you think more women should look into it? Like from your perspective, do you think it’s something that they could do?

Jess: Yeah I think definitely, and another thing I just thought of, I think like physical aspect gets a lot of people, because you have to like, not just be in shape but strong. I know I am like small, so it’s hard for me to be like, ‘Oh let me pick up this 50 pound rucksack on my back for you know 6 miles.’ So I think that’s another thing, but yeah I think there’s just such a stigma around the military that girls are like, you know, this here is a guy’s place. And there’s still kinda like some undertones of like hey it’s a guy’s place, but I still think there’s that stigma, and people like girls just aren’t that interested in it, and then they just don’t know. Yeah there’s just so few girls in the program to like spread the knowledge that hey it’s not just a bunch of macho like every guy’s yelling at each other.

Lauren: Do you feel like that stigma you’re talking about–that it’s like a guy’s place–do you think that um is like portrayed here at this um for this program? Do you feel like sometimes that there’s maybe like an unevenness as far as like being a woman in the ROTC program?

Jess: Yeah. So it’s definitely is interesting. You definitely get treated a little differently. It’s not like you’re treated worse. You just get treated differently, and then it’s just the guy cadets. I mean they’re always just like hitting you up like, ‘Hey, let’s go do this.’ You know like trying to get with you. You know, try to get with you. And it’s just like no, no, no, no. I feel like there’s a lot of that, and then I just feel like I know this personally like I get a lot more flack about stuff.  Like there situations are always like, hey you know, like a guy, two guys could talk to each other, and they’re like, you know, whatever I’ll do it. I could ask a guy the same thing, and they’re like oh you know why would I do this? Why would I want to do that? It’s just like, like we were talking yesterday we were in the van. I’m like the nicest person like I’m so nice to everybody. We’re in the van trying to come back from our training area and like something happened like somebody said kinda like not rude or something sideways about me. This one guy was like,’Why are people always giving you flack?’ And I was like, It’s ‘cause I’m a girl.’ So I think we do get treated differently, but I think at the end of the day you just have to like be one of the guys to really like succeed. I couldn’t come in and be like super girly like, you know, I already washed my nails and did my hair. Like that would just like ruin my reputation. Like you really have to just, like, be one of the guys I feel like to really, really succeed.

Lauren: Do you feel like you have like two Jess-es, like ROTC Jess and like maybe a girly side.

Jess: I was just thinking about that. So like yeah. I was actually talking about this a few days ago cause like you know in ROTC my hair is in a bun, I don’t have makeup on. Like usually I don’t dress you know I’m just kinda like pajamas today, but I usually kinda like girlisher. People see me outside of ROTC, and they’re like, Well, like one girl said, ‘I don’t even recognize you.’ I was like yeah, I combed out my hair, and I got mascara on, but I feel like maybe before there was like two different people, but now that I do so much Army stuff, it’s just like I feel like there’s a good blend. Like I’m still like kinda girly Jess, you know, pink’s like my favorite color. I love makeup and stuff, but then like I go out in the woods and like just live outside like be one of the guys.

Lauren: I mean, it’s all about balance.

Jess: Yeah, I feel like yeah I found the balance of like doing both.

Lauren: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Do you feel like it’s hard to maybe balance the two like maybe sometimes you want to be more girly or like hang out with your girlfriends than rather be one of the guys?

Jess: Yeah. There is cause I know like I have to be like kinda rougher with the guys like I can’t say, ‘Hey how are you?’ You know like I said they give me a lot of flack. ( So when I talk I have to be like, ‘All right. This is what we’re doing. Like, shut up, no. This is what we’re doing.’ And then like all of you, and I kinda talk to my girlfriends like that. I’m like no like I don’t have to do that like. I feel like sometimes I have to like, really like turn the Army off but be like, I’m not in the Army right now, like, can you not be like super like rough around the edges?

Lauren: Cool. So one final question before we wrap this up. How do you think like women can get more involved in this? You know do you think maybe is it something they have to market um a little better, or is it something that you know women should like reach out to others and be like, ‘You know we can do this too.’ Like this is something that it’s not just for the guys it’s for everybody.

Jess: That’s a good question. I’ve never really thought about that before. Um, yeah, I think it really just boils down to like saying is that stigma in the military I think people think the same. I thought the same for ROTC like I was gonna show up and people are gonna like scream at me, and it was just going to be like it’s a smoke fest, which is what they call when they tell you to work out all the time, like all the time. I thought it was gonna be awful, but it’s like, it’s really chill. Most of the military is pretty chill. Once you’re done with your initial training, it’s not bad. So I think if girls realize like, and I think we’re like progressing a lot more in the military as far as like females doing stuff like, they have opened up all the combat arms jobs and stuff like that. So I think if they just tried it. I think they could realize like, hey, you know. I just don’t know why a lot of girls don’t join. I think there’s just that stigma in the military of like you know it’s a guy’s job you know going how to do a bunch of gross military stuff, and it’s not really how it is. So I guess if they just spread the word I guess. I don’t know how. Yeah.