It’s clear to seniors Haylie Hardy and Reilly Kline that joining ROTC at Ship set them on a path to success. “We were able to consistently work toward something we wanted and are able to attain,” Kline said.
This spring, Kline, a criminal justice major, and Hardy, a business major, will graduate and be commissioned as second lieutenants in the US Army. From their graduating class of sixteen cadets, they have risen to the top and led the battalion—Kline served as battalion commander last semester and is now comptroller, while Hardy was cadet command sergeant major and is now public affairs officer. Both earned the Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG) designation last semester, putting them in the top 20 percent of all ROTC cadets nationwide. DMG is a compilation of four years of ROTC experiences and accomplishments.
“It’s earned by the opportunities presented to you and the people around you who help you grow,” Hardy said.
“ROTC puts you in a position that they think you can grow from,” Kline added. “Haylie and I have been on the Ranger Challenge Team. They saw we were committed.”
Kline and Hardy’s commitment is unquestionable. Kline actively sought out colleges that offered ROTC programs, ultimately choosing Army ROTC at Ship. Hardy, having participated in Junior ROTC in high school, was placed in ROTC when she signed up for classes at Ship and stuck with it. Although ROTC added a layer of complexity to college, it provided them with a welcome sense of discipline and direction.
Beyond typical academics and student life, Hardy and Kline mentored young ROTC cadets and learned to “control the chaos” through battalion leadership. Their roles provided guidance to the battalion, and they consulted with each other to plan and problem solve.
Both took advantage of ROTC opportunities that developed their skills, challenged them, and paved the way for their futures.
“I’ve had a ton of great experiences,” Kline said. For three weeks during the summer after freshman year, Kline attended the US Army Airborne School. Two years ago, she traveled to Estonia as part of a CULP (Cultural Understanding and Leadership Program) mission. While there, she learned about Estonia’s military and how they operate, participated in a joint military exercise with British and French soldiers, and completed service projects. “I got to see a whole country. It was awesome.”
Hardy trained with cadets at West Point for a summer. “It’s very different, mentally and physically. It was a huge accomplishment,” she said. She also shadowed a second lieutenant who inspired her to pursue active duty military police (MP) after graduation and commissioning. “It’s crazy, the things you see as military police.”
Hardy also worked with the Women’s Center at Ship to coordinate the Women’s Day event in February with speaker Lisa Jaster, the first female Army Reserve officer to complete Ranger School. Hardy and Kline appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Jaster, learning more about how she attained her goals and balanced the challenges in her life.
“It was an honor to meet her,” Hardy said.
When Hardy and Kline graduate, they won’t have to worry about looking for jobs. They will be active duty US Army, and, thanks to their DMG accomplishment, will be guaranteed the positions for which they apply. As an MP, Hardy will head to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for four to six months before receiving her assignment. Kline will pursue active duty aviation and train in Alabama for about two years. Her hope is to fly an Apache, dependent on her performance in aviation, and spend time in Germany.
“Haylie and Reilly have really excelled in our program,” said Lt. Col. Chris Morton, chair of the Military Science Department. “I’ve seen their development since they were sophomores, and I couldn’t be more proud. They earned every opportunity they were given and emerged as natural leaders.”
Hardy and Kline encourage other students who have considered ROTC to give it a try. “You never know unless you try,” Kline said. “One semester won’t hurt.”
Hardy enjoys mentoring younger cadets and always is amazed at how quickly they excel. “It’s cool to see how people get in better shape and in better health. People who never exercised in high school come and meet me at the gym at 6:00am.”
Plus, there’s something gratifying about knowing that if you are willing to do what you need to, you will succeed, they said. “Something that kept me in ROTC was knowing that, in the end, I was attaining my goal,” Kline said.