This year is looking to be a promising one for cadets participating in the Grand Rapids ROTC, but even more for female cadets in the program. There are currently four women holding leadership positions within the ROTC, which is a rare, yet exciting occurrence in the program.
“This year is really important for us,” said C. Company Commander and Grand Valley State University student Molly Gonzalez. “We have a battalion commander (the highest position any cadet can hold) that is a female, Hannah Jessup. Two of the three company commanders in the entire program are females, myself and Akua Adu. My executive officer at C. Company is also a female, Alexis Brown.”
The ROTC program, which includes many GVSU students, is cadet-led and focuses primarily on building leadership skills as well as providing numerous opportunities to those in the program. Gonzalez and her fellow female commanders are responsible for planning training and events as well as teaching the younger cadets, which will prepare them for their future careers in the U.S. Army.
Gonzalez’s journey to get to this position in the ROTC has been filled with personal growth and development.
“I came into this program and lacked confidence,” Gonzalez said. “I was someone who was capable but was too embarrassed to struggle through things sometimes. Over the years I’ve grown to be more confident. I have learned a lot about myself and my leadership style.”
Each woman was selected for their roles by those who were able to see their individual leadership abilities grow and develop over the years.
“Personally, I asked for my position,” Gonzalez said. “Last semester, when cadre was considering who they wanted to fill the leadership I told my instructor I wanted this position and I asked him what I would need to do to be considered for it.”
There have been other women in the past who held leadership roles, however, the ROTC hasn’t seen such a large amount of female leadership due particularly to the small number of females who join the program.
“As a freshman and sophomore, I was exposed to strong female cadets in leadership,” Gonzalez said. “There were very few women and not as many held positions, but it was empowering to be able to look up to them. We are trying to grow our program here at GV and I think if more females saw how amazing this program is they would consider joining.”
With more women filling leadership positions, it is likely the ROTC will see a surge in female participation. The program continues to recruit more women and is hopeful that the number will continue to grow in the years to come. Subsequently, this will also lead to more women filling leadership positions in the future.
For her part, Gonzalez is excited to step into her role as C. Company Commander and provide more individuals the experience of working with female leadership.
“I think the most important thing I bring to my company is my genuine care for each individual,” Gonzalez said. “I love what I do and even though it can be a large workload at times. I have never felt more passionate about something. I appreciate being part of a program that has taken me seriously and that invests in my potential.”