This summer, a University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences senior academic counselor went above and beyond to benefit students interested in joining the ROTC program.
Skydiving was never originally on Jennie Lazar’s bucket list. When she married into a military family, the thought crossed her mind as something she would do someday. That day became reality earlier this summer. Lazar, who has worked for the college for eight years, had the opportunity to do this, and so much more, as a representative in the Center of Influence training in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Over the years, I’ve built a relationship with the ROTC program here at OU to understand what it is and the opportunities it has for our students,” said Lazar. “I’ve supported all of their events and tried to be a liaison for them on the academic side of things. My husband, Danny, was in the military before I met him, and my brother-in-law is currently in the Army. I entered into a very patriotic family, and it encouraged me to find out more about ROTC and talk to our students to find out about it.”
COIs are community partners from the eight brigades in the United States Army, which operate under Cadet Command. COIs were invited to the Summer of Fort Knox Visit with the intent to spread the word about the benefits, opportunities and options offered by Army ROTC. Lazar, a COI, was nominated to attend by OU Army ROTC Scholarship and Enrollment Officer Johnny Charquenno and Lt. Col. Kyle Brede. Charquenno first met Lazar when he needed assistance in understanding the steps for students who did not perform above standards in their respective curriculums. Her guidance helped him understand a student’s path and helped shape how OU’s Army ROTC guides each cadet academically.
“Army ROTC wants to demonstrate the value of Army officership as a career and Army expertise in leadership and leader development to centers of influence,” said Charquenno. “Jennie’s involvement and support of our program’s vision of success is unmatched. She enhanced our understanding of the developmental process at OU and we wanted to enhance her understanding and view of Army officers and their professional development process. This partnership is what makes OU and its ROTC program a top-tier program across the nation; reaching a Century Strong this past April and continuing Sooner Strong for hopefully 100 more.”
The training lasted two and a half days, during which Lazar was selected to do a tandem jump and stay an additional day. On the first full day, COIs participated in exercises the cadets experience during Cadet Summer Training, including the Field Leadership Reaction Course, a series of obstacle courses to test a variety of skills, each with their own challenges and limitations. For example, cadets might have to get from one tunnel to the next by using only a couple of boards. The challenges require participants to work together to solve these tasks. One of the courses required the COIs to carry a load of ammunition across a ravine area by using a 6-foot board and an 8-foot board.
Lunch was served at the cafeteria base with cadets from across the country. Following that, Lazar attended a seminar about resilience that focused on life changes and military families dealing with transition. COIs were then challenged with learning about themselves by repelling down a wooden tower 60 feet above the ground.
The next day, COIs met at the General George Patton Museum of Leadership,
where they were greeted by Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox. Hughes provided the group with an explanation of the Army rank structure, how promotions are earned and the decisions a cadet must make regarding making the military their career of choice. She also attended various panels to learn first-hand from current and past ROTC cadets about their experience in relation to what is offered at other institutions. Lazar learned about different ways for students to get involved in the ROTC after their freshman year. The Army celebrated its 242nd birthday on the second day of the program and the group dined at the Saber and Quill and watched the ROTC Hall of Fame Induction.
“I felt like my role was to come back and bring awareness to our academic counselors,” said Lazar. “We are transitioning to academic coaching in advising, and we are the ones who see our students and have conversations with them. Some might think it is too late for the military or not know it is still an option throughout their academic career. I was terrified to jump out of the plane and skydive, but it was the most incredible experience, and I would have gone right back up in a heartbeat. The program reaffirmed my belief that it takes a certain heart and mind to go into the military and I’m hoping to bring awareness to our campus and students at OU.”
To learn more about OU Army ROTC, visit http://www.soonerstrong.com. The OU College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most diverse college at OU. To learn more, visit cas.ou.edu.