How Do You Get In The Door? Look For An Entrance
For every career there are a variety of possible entry points, and becoming an Army officer is no different.
The events of September 11, 2001 motivated Tyler Gordy to join the Army. A high school senior in Newcastle, California at the time, he decided that rather than go to college first—a requirement for Officer training--he would enlist right away. Soon after basic training, he was deployed to Iraq, where he spent his first three months as part of a machine gun team. From there, he moved to a scout platoon, serving as a scout sniper and rising to the rank of Sergeant. He also received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during an enemy ambush.
But back in the U.S. as he neared the end of his three-year enlistment, Gordy wasn’t sure what came next. “I knew I would definitely go to college, but leading to what after that I did not know,” he says. At that point, “I didn’t know if I wanted to have a career in the military, but I knew I wanted to be a platoon leader because I had seen the impact that good leaders have,” and wanted to “give back” to others. And to be a platoon leader, you have to be an Officer.
That decision—to go back to the infantry as an infantry Officer—also helped Gordy focus on which college to shoot for: West Point. Now in his senior year there, Cadet Gordy has been selected First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets for the 2009-2010 academic year, the highest position in the cadet chain-of-command. Like all West Point graduates, he will leave the military academy with the commission of Second Lieutenant.
Ed Brandt was a twenty-nine year old minister in Newport, Pennsylvania when one of his colleagues asked him to think about becoming a chaplain in U.S. Army National Guard. Initially commissioned as a First Lieutenant, he is now a Lieutenant Colonel and currently deployed in Baghdad. His went the Direct Commission route, for professions trained in such fields as religion, medicine and law. “I had no military experience” when he became part of the reserves twenty years ago. “I went through an eight-week training course to teach me how to be an Army Officer. They assumed I knew already how to be a pastor,” he jokes. As a military chaplain, “I’m dealing with substantive issues,” talking to young men and women whose families and friends may be 7,000 miles away. “It’s a privilege to be here and talk to people.”
It wasn’t until after graduating with a B.A. in Radio-Television: Broadcast Journalism from the University of Central Florida in Orlando in 2005 that Selina Tolonen decided to become an Army Officer. She attended Officer Candidate School in 2006 and that training “showed me what the words ‘I can’ really mean,” she says. As a First Lieutenant deployed in Iraq, she oversees company-wide maintenance, supply, and several redeployment efforts as a signal company executive officer.
As an Army Officer so far, “I've learned to appreciate freedom, family, and love in ways I never thought possible while living 22 years as a civilian, primarily in Florida near the beach,” she says. “We spend a lot of time away from the people, places, and things we love. Even though it is a volunteer-Army, it still does not mean it is easy.”