FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Jazmine Murphy, a history major at Georgia Southern University and former Military Police Corps staff sergeant, enjoys a challenge.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy’s current challenge is attending classes remotely from her mother’s home in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Most students are uncomfortable with (remote learning) because they feel that they will not learn as much as they would in the classroom,” she said. “The advantage a student has by raising their hand and immediately getting a question answered, gives a sense of security.”
Murphy, who spent nearly nine years as an enlisted Soldier, prepared for three years to earn acceptance last August into the Green to Gold program – designed to offer enlisted Soldiers the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate or graduate degree and commission as an Army officer.
“A lot of my military career, my leaders always have asked me, ‘When are you going to be an officer?’” she said. “I knew their asking was legit and sincere; they had seen something in me.”
Despite her experience as a drill sergeant during five years stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Murphy said she was “nervous and anxious” when she was called in to see the U.S. Army Military Police School commandant – who happened to then be Brig. Gen. Donna Martin at the time – for a final letter of recommendation for the program.
“I finally made it to her office,” Murphy said. “Of course, I had seen her at installation-wide events and things similar, but there was nothing like this meeting.”
Martin, now a major general and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, has a “strong command presence” that Murphy respects – Martin is counted among her list of role models.
“Her presence was something that I will admire for the rest of my life,” she said.
Murphy was born on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and both her parents served in the Army. They are two more of her role models.
“(My mother) kept me disciplined and focused growing up,” she said. “Although I was an only child, she never just gave me anything – whatever I wanted had to be earned. Through her I learned ‘you can do anything you put your mind to.’”
Murphy’s father – who served in the Army for 25 years as a cavalry scout – said that she “demands the respect of everyone that she encounters. She has been recognized by professionals, people who can make changes, folks that mean something everywhere she has been stationed.”
Murphy said she has tried to live by a quote her father taught her.
“He told me, ‘tough times don’t last; tough people do,’” she said. “Even after retirement, he still remains so deeply passionate about the Army. Both of my parents, in different ways, taught me strength and discipline.”
While working to finish her second semester at Georgia Southern, Murphy said she misses her husband, Staff Sgt. Jalen Swanson – a drill instructor assigned to Company C, 795th Military Police Battalion.
“He has so much drive and ambition,” she said.
Murphy is involved in the MacArthur Award-winning ROTC unit at Georgia Southern – the award recognizes the top eight ROTC units nationwide, focusing on the academic and military performance of the cadets, including their grade-point averages and performance at the Leader Development and Assessment Course.
She said she picked her school based partly on the reputation of their ROTC program.
“I surrounded myself with people that I could help and those that could also help me,” she said. “There just seemed like there was so much to do, so much to read and so much to write. In the beginning, I struggled to find a solid routine.”
Murphy singled out Dr. Julie de Chantal, one of her professors who specializes in African-American History, as a big help in her transition as a student – Murphy ended her first semester with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
“She is the professor, critical thinker and mentor that I hope to be after my time in the Army,” Murphy said. “She holds me accountable and keeps it real with me.”
In addition to the remote learning Murphy is currently doing, she said ROTC has been “changed drastically” under COVID-19 restrictions.
She said the tasks that need to be trained are mostly hands on, and it’s challenging to replicate them virtually.
“I look forward to eventually getting back to normalcy, including face-to-face classroom instruction,” she said. “The intellectual satisfaction is phenomenal.”
For the time being, Murphy and her mother are doing their part to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.
“We are staying inside, washing hands, heeding the physical-distance instruction and wearing masks when we go out,” she said. “My mother is now a nurse and she doesn’t play around regarding health and wellness.”
When the pandemic ends and she finishes her degree, Murphy’s goal is to return to active duty as an adjutant general officer.
“For me, the Army and life are all about service,” she said. “With all the knowledge and experience I have, I want to continue challenging Soldiers to be the absolute best they can be and ensure they recognize their potential.”