Students readjust to in-person training for NU’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Students in the Northwestern-affiliated NROTC program line up for training. The midshipmen exercise together several times a week at 6 a.m. as part of the naval program.

Aviva Bechky, Reporter

When Weinberg sophomore Amaria White committed to join the Marines as a high school senior, she didn’t expect her first year to be marked by frequently rolling out of bed and getting dressed from the waist up to Zoom into the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. 

Until three weeks ago, White had never attended an in-person event with Northwestern’s NROTC program. Now, she holds leadership positions and is learning to balance her commitments with the rest of her schedule.

“It’s so new to us,” White said. “I’m just tired all the time.”

Sixteen NU and Loyola University Chicago students in the unit train together on NU’s campus. Some of the students have lived on campus over the past year, but the unit did not meet in person because of university and local COVID-19 health guidelines.

NROTC students, known as midshipmen, exercise together, take naval science and ethics courses, and attend a weekly lab in which they discuss topics like surface warfare and meet high-ranked Naval officers.

When the program switched to a virtual format, instructors taught labs and classes on Zoom and students exercised individually.

Capt. Tyler Thomsen, the unit’s marine officer instructor, joined NROTC in May 2020 after the program went virtual.

“Coming from being in the Marine Corps, sitting in my condo by myself with my dog for months was just bizarre,” Thomsen said.

Now, officers are applying the flexibility of remote work into this year’s programming and sometimes meet with midshipmen online. They also coordinate virtual war games and tactical exercises with units in other locations, Thomsen said.

McCormick senior Jacob Trevino had not attended in-person NROTC programming since his sophomore year. Now in his fourth year at NU, he just became the unit’s battalion commander.

“I haven’t seen someone (be battalion commander) in-person in so long,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult to remember how the battalion commander my sophomore and freshman year were acting.”

As the battalion commander, Trevino acts as the liaison between staff and the rest of the midshipmen. As part of his day-to-day responsibilities, he offers feedback to other midshipmen on improving their own leadership.

Trevino said he gained a new perspective on NROTC over the past year and a half.

“It makes me much more excited for ROTC,” he said. “I used to think, ‘Wow, this really sucks that I’m waking up at like 5:15 on a Friday,’ but now… after experiencing a year not doing that, in a weird way it makes me appreciate how valuable it’s going to be.”

Loyola senior Faith Pacis said she also gained new appreciation for NROTC over the past year. She plans to become a Navy nurse and said she was inspired by their ships deployed to help with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Pacis said she appreciates the challenges of NROTC, which she feels are preparing her for her career.

“That’s how it is in the real military, like you’re just given responsibilities and collateral duties,” Pacis said. “You may not even know how to do it, but you’ve just got to do the best you can.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

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