To commemorate the OSU Army ROTC program’s centennial anniversary in the fall of 2016, the OSU Army ROTC program is working with the OSU College of Arts & Sciences to publish monthly stories over the next year highlighting the history and present success of the program. By clicking on the OSU Army ROTC’s centennial logo on OSU websites, readers will be directed to the current month’s feature story as well as stories from previous months.
Female Cadet Proves Herself as a Leader
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones.
Needing to raise funds to send a group of Oklahoma State University ROTC cadets to the annual Bataan Memorial March in New Mexico, CDT Addy Brongo came up with a plan as simple and effective as a wakeup bugle call.
She devised a plan to bring the ROTC push-up board out to OSU football fans and ask for donations. The push-up board is one of the most visible and revered traditions at OSU games, with the cadets lifting the board and executing pushups after every Cowboys touchdown.
The concept proved to be a huge hit, with people donating money for the chance to get on the board and do pushups themselves or to just take a photo next to it. Brongo’s plan raised enough money to pay for travel, food, and registration for nine cadets to participate in the March.
“Most people were very willing to help us out,” Brongo says.
Of the nine cadets to participate, though, Brongo was the only female. Far from letting that intimidate her, she instead embraced the challenge and used it as motivation.
“You want to be on the same level with the guys because you’re around them all the time,” she says.
Brongo comes by her attraction to the military naturally. Her father enlisted when he was a young man and she has two uncles who served in the U.S. Navy. Not only that, she received a hands-on education as a child.
“Every vacation we ever went on we went to military museums or airfields,” she says. “The amount of pictures I have of me with cannons is ridiculous.”
Such exposure continually stoked her interest in the military and when it came to choose a university (her academic achievements gave her many options) she hungrily researched those with ROTC programs. From her home in Orange County, California, she cast a wide net before deciding on OSU.
Her gender gave her no trepidation about following a path in the military. Any jitters she may have had quickly vanished when she was introduced to the program. “Everybody was very friendly and welcoming,” she says.
And while the number of female cadets does not yet rival the number of males, they are especially invested in each other’s success.
“You become very close with the other females,” Brongo notes.
Regardless of gender, the ROTC program is built to train leaders. Taking a mix of students who may have experience in the National Guard as well as those who have little-to-no military background at all, every student takes an introductory military science course. This course is often taken as an elective and counts for credit in many majors at OSU.
Most students are not eligible to contract with the Army ROTC until after their freshman year, a fact that is often overlooked. With no commitment until they have amassed 30 credit hours toward their degree, students are able to assess the program and decide if they would like to continue. A good number do just that, in no small part because of the leadership opportunities it offers.
“There are lots of opportunities to step up and be a part of something,” Brongo says.
Stepping up to meet a challenge is something Brongo has embraced, even meeting the challenge of serving as one of a handful of female cadets.
“It was a different environment than I was used to but I think it was helpful because while I don’t feel I have to prove myself, I want to prove myself.”
OSU Army ROTC builds camaraderie with fall projects
OSU Army ROTC is more than just preparation for a career in the military; it also establishes camaraderie among its cadets. Two of the more recent team-building projects OSU Army ROTC cadets have been involved with include the Army Ranger Challenge and the OSU football Game Day Crew.
Army Ranger Challenge
Eleven Army ROTC cadets represent OSU at the annual Army Ranger Challenge each fall. Several teams competed at this year’s regional qualifying event, held Oct. 23-25 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While this year did not see the OSU Army ROTC team advance past regionals, they have placed first at regionals three out of the past five years.
Army Sgt. First Class (SFC) Isaac Grunewald, the OSU Army ROTC’s staff member in charge of the Army Ranger Challenge team and Game Day Crew, describes the Army Ranger Challenge as a combination of physical trials – marching for up to 25 miles and completing various obstacles, weapons drills and tactical exercises.
“We select the best of our cadets based on the Army Ranger Challenge’s criteria,” SFC Grunewald said. “These cadets train from 5:45-7:30 in the morning, five days a week, all while going to class.”
This might seem like a tough schedule for any student to take on, but many of the cadets try out for the team more than once. Cadets who have previously competed in the Army Ranger Challenge often help other cadets who want to be on the team.
OSU Game Day Crew
Since 1997, OSU football fans have enjoyed watching the OSU Army ROTC’s Pushup Squad complete pushups every time the Cowboys score a touchdown during home games.
Cadets tryout the Thursday before each home game to see who will be on that weekend’s 11-man Pushup Squad. While they try to give everyone a chance to do some pushups, usually the cadets who can do the most are saved toward the end in case of a high-scoring game – the most pushups a cadet has had to do was 77 during the 2012 Savannah State. SFC Grunewald did the last round of pushups that same game – 84.
“A lot of the excitement for the Pushup Squad probably comes from them getting to go on the field,” SFC Grunewald said. “They get to be in front of all their peers and getting up on that board is a rush. It’s awesome.”
The cadets also have an opportunity to participate on the Cannon Squad during home games. Five cadets and one cadre fire the 75-millimeter cannon (affectionately known as “Packy”) during the national anthem, during a Cowboy kickoff, after OSU touchdowns and if OSU wins.
“Packy” used to be fired from the roof of Boone Pickens Stadium, but after the renovations a few years ago, they moved the cannon to the north side of the field near the visiting team’s fan section.
Not only has the Game Day Crew become a tradition within the OSU Army ROTC program, but it has also embedded itself as a tradition for OSU football fans.
The students in the stands usually count in the background while the cadets are doing pushups. The one time in the cannon’s history that it didn’t fire when it was supposed to, OSU fans noticed. However, there’s perhaps one group of OSU fans who have a special affinity for the Army ROTC Game Day Crew.
“I know our ROTC alumni and veterans probably enjoy it the most,” SFC Grunewald said. “They’re always commenting on how good the cadets look and what a good job they’re doing.”
For more information about the OSU Army ROTC program, visit rotc.okstate.edu/.