Kirsten Bertsch ’10 was awarded the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement at Fort Eustis Aug. 29. Bertsch was one of eight ROTC cadets selected from a national pool of 4,700 rising college seniors to receive the award.
The Bronze Cross is awarded to ROTC cadets who embody the values of military, scholastic and civic excellence.
Bertsch joined ROTC as a freshman at the College of William and Mary to help offset the cost of tuition.
“What really drew me to the program, though, was just the Army lifestyle,” Bertsch said. “I [have] lived on and around Army installations my whole life and, as cliche as it sounds, I wanted to give back to my country because it’s already given me so much.”
Army ROTC cadets participate in a leadership curriculum that includes field training exercises and physical training. Additionally, the College also requires cadets to enroll in military science courses.
“It’s made me push myself more than any sport or activity I’ve ever done, so that I’ve grown to be a much stronger person — physically, mentally, emotionally,” she said. “And I really like the camaraderie — I know that if I’m in a bind, any of … my fellow cadets will help me out.”
Depending on the scholarship award amount, ROTC cadets are obligated to serve in the military for six to eight years. They have the option of serving on active or reserve duty.
“It can be a large time commitment, but as with any other activity, you get out what you put in,” she said.
Bertsch, an English major, is also a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Not only do cadets receive scholarship money, they are also guaranteed a job immediately after graduation. Graduates of Army ROTC enter the active Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard as second lieutenants. They have a choice of 16 military branches, such as field artillery, armor and the Medical Service Corps, from which to choose a career.
After graduation, Bertsch will be commissioned into the U.S. Army to pursue a career in military intelligence.
“I think I want to stay in for at least 20 years, until I’ve put in enough time to retire,” Bertsch said. “At that point I’ll decide whether I want to take my pension and relax, or stay in.”