My ROTC Journey

My name is Mariela Valenzuela. I was born in Mexico, but I have lived in El Paso, Texas the majority of my life. When I was faced with the decision to go to college, I decided to follow the “stereotypical college path.” I left everything and everyone I knew, and moved 8 hours away to begin my college career at UTSA.

 

No major really interested me. I didn’t want to do anything involving STEM, and I’m not creative enough to be in the Arts. I ended up deciding to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice. I binge-watched a good amount of crime shows, so I thought I could become cop or something. I wanted to find something that I was passionate about, basically I was still deciding what I wanted to do when I “grew up.”

 

At my freshman orientation. I saw the Army ROTC table, with a soldier standing in front of it. He asked me “Do you want money for college?” My immediate reply was,  “Hell yeah, I want money for college!” He began to explain the benefits of ROTC such as: scholarships and a guaranteed job after graduation. Me, not having any idea of what I was going to do with my life, decided that I needed some sort of plan.

 

To receive all of the benefits from joining, I was only was faced with a major roadblock -- my physical fitness and weight. My first year of college was trying out the ROTC program to see if it was for me, and if I enjoyed it. I enjoyed my experience, and I made some of my best friends in the program. However, to be able to contract into the UTSA Army ROTC program, and start receiving the benefits, I needed to pass a PT Test.

 

The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) involves three different events:

  • Two minutes of Push-Ups

  • Two minutes of Sit-Ups

  • Two-Mile Run

 

To pass, I also needed to meet a certain height and weight requirement. According to my height, my weight requirement was 164 lbs.

 

For my age group, I needed 19 push-ups, 52 sit-ups, and an 18:53 two-mile run. In my first year, I didn’t put that much effort into the program since I didn’t have an obligation to them yet. I went from being able to only do 4 push-ups, to being able to do 13. I went from 15 sit-ups at the beginning of the year, to 38 sit-ups at the end of the year, and the time for my two-mile run went from 25 minutes, to 21 minutes. Regarding weight loss, I only lost 10 lbs, so I obviously failed to meet the minimum requirements.

 

During the first semester of my sophomore year, the goal seemed unattainable. I only had until the end of the school year pass the PT test. I was thinking about quitting, and I was also at risk of being removed from the program since I wasn’t meeting the requirements.

 

A senior that was about commission into the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant decided to take it upon herself to help me pass my PT test. I started working out everyday, twice a day, and I began to eat right. My health and fitness started to improve drastically, both my weight and my run time was decreasing as well. This commitment began in January, and I passed my first PT test in April. I didn’t just stop there. In August, I contracted into UTSA Army ROTC program, and got awarded a two year scholarship. After I successfully complete Cadet Summer Training and my senior year of college, I will commission into the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Spring of 2020.