BOSTON — 2nd Lt. Curtis Rahman watched his older brothers enlist into the Army Reserve, develop into signal and cyber professionals, and enjoy the benefits of part-time service. Inspired, he planned on enlisting too, but his cousin, Col. Eric Rahman, a cyber officer, told him about the Guaranteed Reserve Forces Minuteman Scholarship.
"I graduated from high school and was hanging out. I had gotten into Florida State University, and that's when Eric brought the scholarship to my attention," Rahman said. It looked like a great opportunity that not many people were using, so I applied."
Rahman, who planned to study computer engineering, was awarded the scholarship in 2013.
It covers full tuition and fees or $10,000 per year toward room and board at any college or university served by an Army ROTC program. Recipients also receive a yearly book allowance of $1200 and a monthly stipend of $420 while attending school.
He says his parents supported his decision. "My Mom and Dad always wanted me to get an education, and I saw the scholarship as a way to kill two birds with one stone, serve in the military as a reservist and get an education. It was a clear path that I had laid out for myself and, at the end of that, would lead to becoming an officer in the military."
Rahman left for Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training two weeks after graduating high school. He became an Information Technology Specialist and served with a Civil Affairs unit in Orlando as a cadet.
Minuteman recipients, like Rahman, serve in Army Reserve units while attending college as a member of the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP). They participate in monthly training and 14-day annual training. They receive pay at the E-5 rate. Many make enough money to be able to live comfortably in college without picking up a job. That was the case for Rahman.
"It was perfect for what I was trying to do," he said. "I didn't have to get a job in college. I pretty much went to class, studied, did my ROTC training, and the scholarship covered me expense-wise and could focus on what I needed to focus on. The Army Reserve pretty much covered my expenses."
Rahman's computer engineering program took five years to complete with the added military science classes of ROTC.
The "icing on the cake" of using the scholarship for Rahman was his time as a cadet counted toward his overall time in service.
"You get time in service under this program," he said. "My degree took five years, so by the time you commission, you have five years' time in service."
Rahman graduated from Florida State in May and commissioned as a Cyber officer. He chose to branch Cyber because it was a natural fit, given his background in computer engineering.
"I see it as the future. There's a ton of news articles about hacks and data breaches, so I saw cyber as a way to help contribute to national defense. I also saw it as a way to be on the front edge of all the emerging technology."
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions around the country restricting large gatherings, Rahman's family hosted a virtual commissioning ceremony hosted via Facebook Live and Zoom - an apt ceremony for a newly-minted Cyber officer.
Curtis, flanked by the immediate family, was joined by his cousin Col. Eric Rahman, via Zoom. He led the ceremony and administered the oath of office.
Curtis' older brothers Craig and Clark, both staff sergeants, joined Curtis and gave the younger Curtis his first salute.
"It turned out well," Rahman said. "I was a little bit disappointed that we didn't get to have the actual ceremony with my peers at school, but it was unique, and we made the best out of it. It was a good moment for my parents, and my family appreciated it because they saw the journey I went on."
After commissioning, Rahman joined the Army Reserve Cyber Protection Brigade's Cyber Protection Team 181 as a team lead. He was also recently hired as a software engineer with Raytheon Technologies in his civilian career.
He credits the scholarship for helping him achieve his educational and service goals and hopes his story will raise awareness about the program.
"That's one of the main problems," he said. "I think if more people were aware of what you get with the scholarship or how to apply for it, I think more people would apply. There are a lot of benefits that come with it."
To learn more about the Army ROTC, high school seniors should contact the Professor of Military Science or Recruiting Operations Officer at the Army ROTC program that serves their college or university or visit https://www.goarmy.com/rotc.html.