The student body of Texas Tech is filled with interesting communities and clubs, one of them being the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
The ROTC was formed when the National Defense Act of 1916 was put into place by President Woodrow Wilson, according to the Tech website. The community has since remained steadfast and disciplined in giving students the opportunity to learn about the Army and study on a college campus.
Joe Juarez, a senior communications studies and chemistry double major from Levelland, joined the Army at the age of 18, two weeks before his high school graduation. He said he grew up in the Children’s Home of Lubbock and did not associate much with his family.
“I lived with some cousins, sometimes,” he said. “It was life changing. It motivated me to be who I was. I graduated high school on my own, nobody forced me. I was very involved in school. It was last-second, going to the Army. Nobody told me I needed to apply for college or how to pay for it. So, I chose the military as my route to get into school.”
He went on to explain his experience in the military, the people he met and his job within the army.
“It was great, I love it for the most part. I knew what I was getting myself into. I picked an easy MOS (Military Occupational Specialty Code), just a transportation. I could get in, do my minimum time just so I could get out and get my education.” he said, “I did my eight months of training then got stationed in Kentucky. It brought the world to me. I met people who were from all over. Less than a month there, I got deployed to Iraq for 15 months. It was straight business. I picked my MOS because I knew I could see action without having to shoot anybody.”
When he came back from Iraq and moved into civilian life, it was difficult and hard to adjust, Juarez said, but learning and studying helped him find who he initially was.
“I was 22. I started getting more serious and trying to get the routine back. I noticed I was having trouble with mania and insomnia. So, I took care of that,” he said. “Once I immersed myself in civilian life, not having to worry about having to be on guard 24/7. I had to change my mindset into being a civilian again.”
He said it took longer to adjust to living an everyday life.
“I went back to college when I was 27. I just tried to get a routine. The more I went to school the more I realized who I was before the military. I found my passion for education and learning. The spark was re-ignited,” he said. “I’m trying to get my doctorate in chemistry.”
Ben Morrow, a freshman marketing major from Tyler, said he graduated high school early in order to fit in his 22 weeks of training at the Army with hopes to attend Tech on time with the rest of his peers.
“Boot camp was 10 weeks and my job training to become an engineer was 12 weeks. So, it was 22 weeks in total. January to July. I graduated early because I really wanted to go to Tech on time. So, I took online classes in high school and graduated early, so I could do boot camp and my training and make it to college,” he said. “It was hard. I got here somehow.”
He said when he would attend classes while in uniform, he believed people viewed him differently.
“They do look at me, but they don’t look at me when I look at them,” he said. “They walk by and don’t make eye contact. I don’t feel different, but I think other people see me as different. I can’t help how they look at me, but it’s different.”
Morrow said it felt different being a veteran on campus because his interests changed while he was in the army. Before he wanted to join the Army, he said he was interested in Greek life, but now he does not feel like he would fit in to that lifestyle.
“You see a lot of people who haven’t been away from home, and you can tell. But I feel like boot camp has helped me with that,” he said. “They don’t have discipline or can’t organize. Those are some things that you learn in training that you benefit from.”
Tyler Galindo-Watts, a freshman Kinesiology major from Sanger, went through basic training and is a part of the ROTC at Tech. He said being a part of the ROTC gives insight and basic understanding of what it would be like to be a part of the military.
“Right now, we are learning a lot of things I already know because I did basics. A lot of people in ROTC hasn’t done basic training and aren’t a part of the Army yet,” he said. “They have no commitment, no contract, to the Army and can drop that class whenever.”
Galindo-Watts said his training has affected his studies in a positive way. He said it holds him accountable, and he learned a lot of good characteristics that made him more responsible with his work. Most importantly, he said he enjoys it because he gets to be a part of something bigger than himself.
Initially, Galindo-Watts said he went into the army to pay for college, but his reasoning soon changed.
“I did it to pay for college,” he said. “But then at boot camp, I fell in love with it. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I just want to make a career out of it.”