Julia Wallace was conflicted. She knew she wanted to enlist in the military, but her parents had reinforced the importance of a college degree throughout her childhood.

This isn’t uncommon for ROTC cadets, who work towards becoming an officer in the U.S. Air Force while also being full time students. The 5:30 A.M. classes, physical training, and mandatory summer boot camp is the price that the cadets have to pay.

Julia after ROTC practice

Wallace soon realized this was her best option.

“Reminding students that having a bachelor’s degree and going to school is really important for us to be leaders and educators in this world,” Wallace said. “One of the ways to do that is helping people and joining the military is one of the ways you can help people and serve.”

St. Joe’s hosts Air Force ROTC Detachment 750, for which Wallace is the Cadet Wing Commander, which is effectively president of the group. It is the only Air Force ROTC detachment in the Philadelphia area, and they draw from students from universities in Philadelphia and outside like Rowan and West Chester. Each Thursday students commute to St. Joe’s for aerospace classes, then ‘leadership laboratory’ which includes their Physical training. The leadership, aspect of ROTC is something that really drew Wallace in.

Although St. Joe’s hosts Detachment 750, about 90 percent of the cadets are non St. Joe’s students. One of those students is Sydney Taggart, who comes from a military background and knew she wanted to serve the country, but wanted to pursue her education in hopes of becoming a professor following her service. The St. Joe’s senior is awaiting her assignment following graduation, which she said could range from as far away as Japan to as close as Delaware. 

Sydney Taggart talks about ROTC at SJU

Leadership was one aspect that is emphasized in ROTC and that pulled in both Wallace and Taggart. The same ROTC cadets that can be seen running on the intramural fields on Thursdays may one day be on the front lines and Sydney thinks that Detachment 750 prepares you for that moment.

“You really learn how to lead a group, how to help others, and be part of a team. You learn how to be a dynamic follower and a dynamic leader as well,” Taggart said.

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