In May 27 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Former Russell County High School student Stephanie Mills recently graduated from Norwich University, a top military college in Northfield, Vermont with cum laude honors in criminal justice.
Mills, who at one time was a member of the high school's Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, attended the college on a $150,000 Marine Corps scholarship that she was able to attain by being a top student in the local ROTC.
“I decided that I had never been to the Northeast so I was going to pick a school up there,” Mills, a 2006 graduate of Russell County High School, said. “I found a private military institute that I really loved and decided to go so I've spent the past four years in a very cold state.”
Mills said she spent her junior year in college training the school's freshman class.
“I was in charge of their well-being and taking care of them,” she said. “This last year I was the platoon leader in charge of them so I had a more adult role of supervising and managing them.”
During her years at Norwich, she also spent some time training for the Marine Corps. This summer she will participate in officer candidate school for the Corps and commission from there as a Marine Corps officer.
“Norwich is the oldest military institute,” she said of her alma mater. “It is the place where ROTC actually started so I found that pretty interesting.”
She said the leadership opportunities that were offered at the school really helped her develop into an even better student and leader on campus.
Mills, who is also a licensed pilot, hopes her future in the Marine Corps allows for her to seek her dream of becoming an air traffic controller.
“I've got my family's full support and they're all in the military as well,” she said. Mills' mother and father are both based in the Pacific while her sister is based in Italy with the Navy.
Mills said that while the military was not forced on her, it was a situation where she said she didn't know anything else.
“It was just the structure that I always envisioned my career to be like,” she said.
Her career path was due in large part to her Marine Corps scholarship through the NJROTC.
“I never thought I would go to college, I though I would just enlist straight out of high school,” she said. While she did enlist, she never attended boot camp and received the prestigious scholarship about a month later.
“My academics and physical fitness, mainly due to ROTC, is what got me the scholarship,” she said. “I would have not gone to college, without the help of the military, otherwise.”
When she arrived at Norwich, she was eased into the military institution lifestyle and adjusted to the change in lifestyles with ease over time.
“It progressed as it went on but it wasn't like culture shock,” she said. She credits the local NJROTC, Cpt. Bob King and former Senior Chief Brumback for helping push her toward her goal.
“They really tell you to strive for something better and the responsibility they put on you here is something you don't get elsewhere,” she said. She has also met Sr. Chief Steve Kinder through correspondence with her high school's NJROTC program and said he is a perfect fit for the youth in the program.
Mills, who was born on a Navy base in Washington state, said that while she only was in Russell County through her high school years, it still feels more like home than any other place. She still has a few family members living here but also considers the ROTC program as part of her family.
“I love to come back and talk to Captain King,” she said. “Every time I come back I go and see him.”
Mills even hopes King will be the one to pin her rank on once she gets commission into the Corps.
“He wants the community to see how successful this program is,” she said. With the recent success stories coming from the program, there is no doubt the RCHS NJROTC is making a big impact.