Some female students at the University of Rhode Island are adding military science classes and labs to learn the tactics useful for future officers to their already-full course loads.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, otherwise known as ROTC, is a program to provide individuals with the training needed to become officers for the U.S. Army. The program is demanding for participating college students, as it requires them to find a balance with normal academics and ROTC requirements, including early-morning physical training sessions three times a week

The URI ROTC program has approximately 60 participating students with about 50 males and 10 females. For these women, the demands required are no less than those required for the men. As the military includes an increasing number of women, the distinction between gender expectations is diminishing.

Freshman female ROTC participant Mackenzie Evans said that gender equality is essentially a given in the URI program. “Females aren’t looked at or treated any differently,” she said. “We’re all just ROTC Cadets.”

However, there are certain factors to consider that influence females during the physical portions of their training. Certain discretion for the physical capabilities of each gender exists, but as Evans described, there is still no easy way out. Standing at 5 feet 2 inches and 110 pounds, Evans said there are ways around physical limitations.

“When I’m not able to do something physically, like fireman carry a person who weighs close to 200 pounds, I work on figuring an alternative out and maybe drag them instead,” Evans said.

Photo courtesy of URI ROTC
Photo courtesy of URI ROTC

Although the program is rigorous, it does not prevent participants from meeting the expectations. Sophomore female participant Michelle Runge was inspired to join the program by her father, who was an officer in the army.

“I am expected to do everything just like my male counterparts,” Runge said. “Sometimes it’s discouraging seeing how much more they can lift than me, but you just use it as motivation to get better.”  

Runge attributes the demands of the program to the instructors wanting to build the students into good leaders. “The program really teaches you how to become efficient at time management and dealing with stress,” she said.

Both Evans and Runge would recommend the program to incoming women and have described tremendous growth since beginning. Both felt drawn to the military and saw benefit in joining ROTC. Despite being some of the few women in training, Evans said physical capabilities doesn’t make someone a better cadet. Instead, Runge said that “everyone there is there to help you and motivate you to become better and push your limits.”