For Christina, the military was not a career option until she heard about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps(ROTC) scholarship.“My plan was to go to college, get a degree in Hospitality Management and start a career in event planning or hotel management,” Christina said. “During my senior year of high school a recruiter told me to apply for the ROTC scholarship, which would pay for my full tuition fees [including books] in college as well as give me a monthly stipend to live off of.”
Of course there was a catch.
“The only catch was that I had to be in the Air Force ROTC program in college. The recruiter said I could apply for the scholarship, join ROTC for the first year of college, then quit the scholarship and ROTC altogether and I would have gotten the money for college for the entire first year, no strings attached!”
But Christina never left. After her first year of ROTC, as Christina was getting ready to quit, her instructor talked her out of it. The instructor told her that the military could be a great career choice, or at least a great start. Christina couldn’t disagree. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in hospitality management as a Second Lieutenant. The best part is that she is fulfilling the job she had always wanted.
Putting Her Degree to Work
“I now work as a Force Support Officer in the Air Force, which is closely related to hospitality-type stuff in the civilian world,” she said. “For example, this year I am in charge of planning a banquet for 300+ guests. We are also in charge of the dining facilities on base, fitness centers, events, lodging, etc … So in other words, my degree ended up fitting right in to what I’m doing now in the Air Force.”
Although the military sort of fell in her lap, Christina was well aware of the military lifestyle before she joined ROTC; her father and brother have both served in the Air Force.
“The Air Force paid for a good portion of my college education, so now I owe them at least four years on active duty,” she said. “Whether I stay in or get out of the military, I think I made a wise choice. If I get out, I expect to be hired very quickly in the civilian world because companies love to hire prior-military folks, especially officers, because of our training and experience.”
There were some things she was not prepared for. “I’ve been away from my family since I graduated high school at age 17,” she said. “I lived in Orlando for four years for college, and then I graduated, became an officer and got stationed in North Dakota. I’m a pretty independent person, but I do miss my family and talk to them often.”
Christina said the move was a change that took time to get over. “I was pretty devastated when I moved to North Dakota because I felt that my whole world was stripped away and I had to start another life in a foreign place. I coped by praying to God. I also made friends quickly and started learning my job and soon enough I got used to it here.”
‘It is very important to have friends’
Friends have been an important asset to Christina’s work and social life.
“I have made many great friends in the military,” she said. “It is very important to have friends in your career field because of networking purposes! I e-mail friends from other bases all of the time asking for their help or just saying ‘Hi’ and seeing how they’re doing. They have been lifesavers to me several times and vice-versa.”
Although Christina isn’t seeing anyone special right now (“I feel that there isn’t a great selection of men in my town, but maybe I’m just too picky!”) she stays busy with church, volleyball, working out and traveling. Of course, she is used to staying busy.
Christina was obviously not afraid to go above and beyond, which is why she applied for several scholarships for college, not just ROTC.
“I applied for and received several scholarships coming out of high school,” she said. “I literally got paid to go to school! I did not have to take out a single student loan or pay for anything out of pocket. Joining the military out of school isn’t a bad thing for those who cannot afford college or qualify for enough scholarships. Bottom-line: Get your degree if you are capable of doing so! It is never too early to plan for your future and education opens all doors. Apply for scholarships and keep applying even if you think you have enough money!”
Loving Her Job
All of the hard work Christina put in to applying for scholarships and joining the ROTC on top of her studies has paid off. Christina is doing what she loves in a fast-paced and exciting environment.
“I love that my job is a constant challenge,” she said. “I love the fact that every day is different and I am able to make an impact on the lives of those I lead. I love the camaraderie in the Air Force. We’re like one, big family and we look out for each other both in and out of the uniform. The culture of the military is one-of-a-kind!”
Not only is the Air Force an exciting career, but it serves our country, which Christina takes pride in.
“I also like the unpredictability of the Air Force. I can be stationed or deployed anywhere in the world. That kind of adventure is awesome to me! I feel like my career is necessary to protect the freedoms that we as Americans share. It is truly an honor to be a part of that.”
The single-most important thing she has learned in the military is leadership: “As an officer they pump leadership into us like it’s nobody’s business,” she said. “I have learned so much on how to be an effective leader and I am able to translate that into other areas of my life as well.”
While Christina finishes grad school, she is still uncertain what the future holds, but whatever she chooses to do, Christina said she will always answer to a higher power.
“God comes first in my life, then family, then friends then work and everything else. The most important thing that I have learned recently (and will continue to learn) is how to keep those priorities straight!”
Do you want to join the military?
Here are some tips from Christina on how to start a successful military career as an officer.
- Get your degree.
- Be active and stay in shape. You have to be able to meet Physical Training Standards. Look them up and work towards exceeding the minimum requirements.
- Learn to be a leader! As an officer you will be expected to take on huge amounts of responsibility from the onset of your career.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take chances others are afraid to take.
- Don’t expect special treatment because you are female, it’s not going to happen.
- Even though you want to stand out, always remember that you are nothing without your peers: Teamwork is everything in the Air Force!