CHENEY, Washington -- 2nd Lt. Nicholas Castro came to Eastern Washington University (EWU) with a unique background and skills, having enlisted and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2009 -- 2015 and leaving at the grade of sergeant. While attending school, he decided to look into the options of combining his past military experience with his new academic and professional goals.

After speaking with the EWU ROTC Recruiting Operations Officer, Robert Riedel, he discovered he could pursue a nursing degree in partnership with Washington State University. He was about to receive scholarships from the EWU ROTC program, which would ultimately result in him earning a commission as an Army officer in the Nursing Corps.

His past experience and hard work ethic throughout his time in the program earned him the title of Distinguished Military Graduate, a title reserved for the top 20 percent of Cadets across the nation. His ranking is based on a number of factors including cumulative GPA, the Professor of Military Sciences evaluation, performance at the US Army Advanced Camp, and physical fitness score.

Castro said, "The EWU ROTC program was very helpful in teaching us the basic Soldier and leadership skills needed as a new second lieutenant. The program was also understanding of the nurse Cadets unique curriculum requirements. We were able to learn the same skills as the other Cadets, but had the flexibility to meet the requirements of the nursing program. Overall, their understanding of our challenges allowed us to be successful in the classroom and the military training environment."

Having taken a unique career path thus far, it was of little surprise that Castro would again pursue a non-standard career path moving forward. He chose to serve in a U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Fairchild, Air Force Base (AFB) outside of Spokane, Washington.

"It was a difficult decision, but ultimately this decision better supports my wife getting her Bachelor of Computer Science Degree from EWU. There were positive aspects to both sides, but the reserve option allows both my wife and I to pursue our career goals here in Washington," he said.

Castro is currently employed full time in the orthopedic department at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in downtown Spokane. He conducts drill with his unit at Fairchild, AFB one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year, and is already looking at ways to pursue a graduate degree as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). In regards to the Army's continued education options, he said, "The Army pushes me to better myself as a leader and as a medical professional, ultimately bettering the Army."

The EWU ROTC program currently has five Cadets enrolled in the nursing program. Those interested in the program can reach Rob Riedel at (509) 359-2084.