In honor of her service and in recognition of Veteran’s day and Month of the Military Family, we shine a spotlight on 2008 recipient Rocio. Rocio attended the University of Kansas and now serves in the United States Army.
How did/do your parents serve?
My father served 22 years in the Army as an enlisted Soldier. He began his career as a combat engineer then switched to a paralegal.
What made you decide to serve?
My dad persuaded me to join JROTC in high school. He had me convinced to accept an ROTC scholarship from The University of Kansas until I found out I received the Picerne/Corvias scholarship. I loved the idea of giving back to my country but was scared of being deployed and back in 2008-2012 all of my friends who joined were immediately deployed. I finished school and began working as an event coordinator helping veterans. The work was important and kept me busy but I wasn’t fulfilled and kept thinking about the service. My dad loved his job as a Soldier and he encouraged me to set a deadline for myself. He said he thought I would enjoy the Army and be a good leader. When I hit a certain age I should either go talk to a recruiter or, if the desire to serve wasn’t strong, I would stay at my job. I set a goal to prioritize my life on my 25th birthday and I still wanted to be a Soldier when I reached that age. I enjoy how each day is different, that I get to work with and influence younger Soldiers, and that fitness is a daily priority
How did growing up with the military affect your decision to serve?
Growing up with the military influenced my decision heavily. When I was younger I believed everyone was in the military and moved around every three years. I was in middle school when I discovered that there were people who lived their whole life in one house. It blew my mind and my dad laughed when I told him about it. Seeing Soldiers walk around in uniform on post was comforting, living on post made me feel safe, and the benefits we experienced through Tricare and travel were all familiar. I felt comfortable and well prepared with my decision to serve.
Is being in the military what you expected it to be based on what you saw growing up?
No, being in the military shocked me. My dad was an enlisted paralegal which meant he worked in an office and hardly ever went to the field. He convinced me to become an officer through Officer Candidacy School at Ft. Benning, GA. I became a Chemical Corps Officer and am now working in an Air Defense Artillery unit in Korea. I was spoiled in that my dad was never gone more than 6 months and was not deployed for OIF/OEF. I lacked the common sense to predict that I would need to learn to use a weapon and experience time in the field for weeks at a time. I know now that being in the military can mean very different things depending on your job and I love the experiences I’ve had.
What are you currently doing overseas?
I’m working with an Air Defense Artillery unit of over 900 Soldiers. Air Defense Artillery watches the skies to monitor for anything unusual. I oversee and assist the units in training for different tasks in preparation for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) attacks. I also advise the unit on what preventive measures should be considered for a pre-determined CBRN attack and decontamination procedures for people and equipment if attacks were to happen. All of these tasks are training; there is no known risk here. Besides that, I monitor safety accidents and risk mitigation for Soldiers. I help plan some of the holiday events; I’m planning a Zombie Run for the unit, I planned a march for Women’s Equality Day in August, and am learning about ammo and missile storage safety on my spare time.
What is your daily routine like?
We start the day with physical training for an hour and a half. Then I head to the office from 0930 until about 6 pm and work on various tasks we have to complete for the week. There are constant training activities and no day is the same. The majority of Soldiers in Korea are here for 9-12 months so continuity is difficult to maintain. The constant rotation of Soldiers makes it challenging to keep units certified and there becomes a never-ending cycle of training. It’s exciting and fast-paced for sure.
What has been something that’s surprised you about serving overseas?
I was surprised at the public transportation systems. They’re easy to use and there are apps that tell you arrival and departure times of trains. It’s even possible to buy your train tickets on apps to avoid lines! I’m also surprised by how many cafe’s do not offer regular brewed coffee since mochas, cappuccinos, and espresso-based drinks are preferred. Plus, fresh produce is expensive at $1 for one apple, orange, banana or one kiwi on a regular day. After Hurricane Michael, a head of lettuce was $7. We receive COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) which definitely helps.
What is something that you miss from home right now?
I miss so many things from the states. I miss seeing an alphabet I understand because I haven’t learned Hangul. The language barrier has been the hardest part for living in Korea. Also, I miss human touch. My family always gave hugs when we woke up or went to bed and we have always been affectionate. That was my greatest adjustment when joining the military as it’s not Soldier-like to touch others. I’ve learned not to be as affectionate but there’s an aspect of physical contact that I feel is necessary for humans and makes me homesick. Koreans are not accustomed as Americans are to touch and do not high five, handshake as often, or stand too close. Many Korean women acknowledge others by nodding their head instead of shaking hands.
Is there anything you’d want to share about the experience with the Corvias family?
I’m incredibly grateful to have a support group that I know will always be there. The scholarship recipients have a common bond in being goal-getters and giving back to their communities. The constant emails and social media posts make me feel like I’m a part of your experiences. Sometimes we may go months without saying hi but the foundation has given me a network of peers that have proved their dedication to each other by making retreats and communication frequency a priority. Without a doubt I know I can crash on someone’s couch or meet them for lunch if I’m visiting their city. I love seeing how we’re all accomplishing our goals and pushing forward to make the most of every experience. I’m thankful to have a group of cheerleaders in my life to bounce ideas from or ask questions. Thank you for all the support and I’ll see you soon!