by Victoria Dekle
For some people, waking up early for physical training might be the hardest part of joining the University of Kentucky ROTC. But not for sophomore cadet, Dahlia d’Arge.
“Waking up is easy,” she said. “With farming you have to wake up early.”
Over the past two years, Dahlia has made the physical transition from cleaning stalls on her family horse farm in Paris, Kentucky to running before class with her fellow cadets and perfecting her pull-up at the Johnson Fitness Center.
She is a very busy student, juggling ROTC responsibilities, a full load of classes, the physical fitness demands of military training, and helping her mother on the family farm on weekends. All of this work, however, is worth the late nights and blistered heels because Dahlia has aspirations – she would eventually like to be a lawyer in the United States Army.
Coursework and studying are a priority in Dahlia’s life at UK because this effort not only affects her academic standing within the university, but it will also help determine her life after college as a Soldier.
“GPA is very important in ROTC. It is a determinant of whether you get to be an active duty officer, a reserve office, or a guard officer. It sometimes defines where you will be in the military.”
Dahlia knows that her major in History will give her a strong background in world affairs to prepare her for a legal career within the military.
“I like to see the connections between different civilizations,” she explained, “like how the Babylonian civilization came to somewhat influence some of what has happened in the Middle East.”
Bruce Holle, a professor in the History Department, stands out to Dahlia as an influential teacher and an effective leader in the classroom. He teaches a valuation of history as a way of gaining an understanding of our present as well as positive leadership within the classroom.
“He sets expectations right up front. He’s a very compassionate person too – he’s gruff on the outside but he is more than willing to help a student or just talk if you need to about problems in his class, another class, or to explain issues.”
Dahlia actually has several mentors across campus, especially in the ROTC program. SFC Gregory Lehman is her instructor this year and Dahlia explains that his guidance extends beyond military success.
“If there is anything I needed help with, his door is always open. And for a college student I think that’s very important because so often we are far from home or our parents become very busy after we leave for college.”
The Army officers and non-commissioned officers who run the program provide assistance and guidance for each cadet.
“You come into college and you’re lost, especially in a large campus where you don’t have that one-on-one connection with many people. It helps to have adult mentorship and guidance throughout the process.”
Other cadets also provide mentorship and help in succeeding in both college and ROTC. One graduate of the UK Army ROTC program, Captain Mary Awoniyi, has also been a strong mentor for Dahlia.
This connection even began before Dahlia set foot on the UK campus.
“When I was in high school, I got on the UK ROTC website and there [CPT Mary Awoniyi] was and she was doing exactly what I wanted to do in life. That was a big inspiration for me. Honestly, it’s an honor to follow in her footsteps.”
While growing up in Paris, Kentucky, Dahlia’s family was friends with an Air Force lawyer, Captain Allison Weber, who demonstrated the many ways people can live their lives as military officers.
“I was always amazed by the fact that CPT Weber had two parts to her life,” Dahlia explained. “She was in the military and very serious about that aspect of her life, very committed to what she was doing.”
But at the same time,” Dahlia continued, “she had a life outside of that. She had an art gallery and she participated in the arts here in Lexington. She was just a very unique person and it broke the stereotype that a military career would completely dominate your life.”
“She was a multifaceted person who accomplished a lot in different aspects of her life. I would feel lucky if my life could be as well-rounded as hers,” Dahlia said.
At the end of the day, Dahlia is preparing to be a Soldier – to learn how to defend and to serve the citizens of the United States. It is a tremendous responsibility to take on as a young college student, but Dahlia is up for the challenge.
“I love being the person who others can count on to help with strategy, to listen, and to even bring the Band-aids and the cookies.”
“In the Kentucky Rangers – a cadet founded organization within the battalion – I very much enjoy my role as the person who keeps track of everyone else on my team.”
“The organization makes college more than classes and clubs,” she explained. “The Rangers and the Army ROTC make the college experience into something more worthwhile for me.”
Being able to use her talents to serve others motivates Dahlia as she prepares for her career as an Army lawyer.
“There are different ways you can serve your country and this is just my calling.”