San Antonio, Texas. (Jan. 6, 2017) -- While a majority of the week of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is focused on football and the players on the field, it also provides many opportunities for those who are unfamiliar with the Army to learn more about what it takes and means to be a Soldier.

During a panel discussion Jan. 6, Cadets enrolled in ROTC in the local area were able to share a little bit about the journey they have been on as a part of their training to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army with various influential community and business leaders from across the country.
Cadets were asked questions by audience members who were curious about how ROTC had enriched each of their lives after a welcome from U.S. Army Cadet Command Commanding General Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes.

Cadet Travis Danning, Saint Mary's University, who has 12 years of prior active-duty time, said being an ROTC Cadet has helped him build upon a strong foundation.

"For me, it was kind of like take a step back in time and relearning how to be that leader up in front," he said. "You're kind of wanting to be in control of things, but this is a time to step back and learn how to be a better leader and a better officer."

"Being in ROTC has built me into something more. You learn such great leadership and life skills that will last you a lifetime. You get those better leadership skills and an education -- there is no downside to it," he added.

He said being prior service has put him in a unique situation.

"I'm kind of like the old guy in my program. I'm 30 years old and the only one with young kids, but it provides me the opportunity to provide mentorship and advice on what it's like to actually be on active duty," said Danning.

Cadet Jose Michel, University of Texas San Antonio, who is also prior service and was a sergeant first class, said ROTC has provided him yet another challenge and new goals to reach for.

"I had always wanted to be an officer -- those were some of the people you always looked up to. So when that opportunity came up during a time when I felt I was at stand still, I wanted to do something that would allow me to be more competitive," he explained.

Michel went on to say that one of those new challenges was going back to an academic environment.

"For me, one of the hardest things about joining ROTC was probably getting back into the classroom environment -- it had been around eight years for me. I would sit in class and wonder if I was going to make it compared to all of the younger students who were just coming out of high school -- it's been years since I had done this, said Michel. "I had to start over basically, but luckily as an adult I was able to make the most of this experience."

Cadet Mayelisa Gasca, Saint Mary's University, said ROTC has allowed her to achieve two dreams at once.

"My biggest motivator in coming to the program was I really wanted to go to school, and through a scholarship with ROTC I was able to do that and serve a noble cause -- it sounded like a win-win for me," she said. "I didn't know what to expect and had fears wondering what had I signed up for? But now I love it. I get to go to school and to do something that matters -- it's allowed me to do what I want to do in more ways than one."