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ROTC graduates receive commissions, reflect on experiences

| Friday, May 17, 2019

The graduating seniors in the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) will receive their commissions Saturday marking the beginning of their careers of service in the U.S. military. Notre Dame’s ROTC program includes students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross College, Valparaiso University, Bethel College and Indiana University South Bend.

Graduating Air Force cadet and Notre Dame senior Natalie Petro is the first member of her immediate family to join the U.S. Military, and she said her experience in ROTC helped her grow as a leader, teammate and student.

“I don’t even know how to describe what my college experience would’ve been without it,” Petro said.

Petro said the leadership skills she developed in ROTC translate to her other extracurriculars. On top of her ROTC training, Petro is also a member of Project Fresh (PFresh), a hip-hop dance group at Notre Dame. Petro’s ROTC experience has developed her management abilities, she said.

“My friends in PFresh say, ‘Natalie, can you just run this and run that? Because you just make things happen,’” she said. “That’s what I do in ROTC. I’ve just learned how to run things and make things happen.”

Petro, who will begin active duty in October, will work as a civil engineer at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. Petro said she joined ROTC because she had a desire to serve. Now, she looks forward to putting her training into action.

“I really love to help people,” Petro said. “Now [with] my job, I get to go serve my country.”

Graduating Navy cadet and Notre Dame senior Jacqueline Courtney said she was also drawn to ROTC by her desire to serve. In late June, she will move to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, where she will begin two years of flight school. After flight school, Courtney will spend eight years in military service flying aircrafts.

Although ROTC requires major time and dedication, Courtney and Petro said the community the officers and cadets provides is very supportive.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot from the officers, … and I’ve been surrounded by like-minded people while learning those lessons,” Courtney said. “It’s been a super supportive community overall. … We do mandatory things, but I’ve been able to find a lot of meaning in them.”

Petro said she is grateful that ROTC connected her with students of all ages. Throughout her four years in the program, Petro said she made strong relationships with older and younger students and her peers.

“It really has become a family,” she said. “The good, the bad, the thick, the thin — we pretty much all go through it together.”

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