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Robert Ivankovich is extremely busy. Before the sun rises each day, he’s up and crossing school, Army ROTC, and community service tasks off his to-do list. Ivankovich likes to keep a full schedule.
Whether he’s up early doing PT with the Montana State University Army ROTC program or studying Arabic for his upcoming trip to Jordan with Project GO this summer, Ivankovich, an MSII Cadet double majoring in Anthropology and Asian Studies, doesn’t like to sit still.
“I try to be a really dynamic person. I try to have my hand in multiple things and not put all my eggs in one basket,” he said.
“Rob has always had an interest in structure, in programs, and in moving things forward. He’s very time-driven, and he’s very motivated militarily like that,” Kirk Ivankovich, Rob’s father, said.
Kirk, said he recognized this service-mindset in his son at a young age. He also saw his son drawn to Army toys, military games and war movies.
“I asked him one time, ‘Do you want to go into the service in the Army when you’re bigger?’ and he said, ‘Maybe.’ So I asked him, ‘Do you want to go into combat?’ he said ‘Not really, I kind of want to be the guy that helps everybody else with what to do,” Kirk said.
“He’s had that American flag tap him on the shoulder just about every day when he went to school, so we are fairly patriotic and we are service driven,” Kirk adds. “I’ve always told [my kids] it’s your duty to help those people that can’t help themselves.”
Ivankovich and his family consider the small town of Columbus, Montana home, having moved there in 2014 from Minnesota. This quiet community of 2,000 people serves as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park and boasts picturesque views of the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains.
“I loved growing up there, and I think that’s really where I came into who I am,” Ivankovich said. “I lived there from the middle of 7th grade until the end of high school. That’s where I made some solid friends and connections, and really just fell in love with the state.”
In 2018, Ivankovich began his junior year and realized his time in high school “wasn’t going to last forever.”
He felt an urgency to do more, to reach that next level, “to start planning now. I wanted to set myself up for success in the future,” he said.
Sue and Kirk Ivankovich had kept college options a regular part of their conversations from the time their children were young.
“[Rob] told us that he was really seriously looking at ROTC and honestly, I don’t think we could have been any prouder,” Sue said.
At the start of his senior year, Ivankovich researched scholarships and schools before taking the initiative to fill out an application for the four-year ROTC National Scholarship. He didn’t tell his parents he’d applied.
“I put MSU [Montana State University] as my only scholarship location, I just knew I wanted to come here,” Ivankovich said. “It kind of took off and I realized I am a good candidate for this. This is something that’s a dream of mine that I think I can actually attain.”
In January of 2020, Ivankovich received word from the board he’d been selected as a scholarship recipient. For his parents, the news came as a welcome surprise, but both parents agree they weren’t shocked.
“That’s just Rob. It’s what he does.”
“The focus for Rob wasn’t about getting his college paid for, it’s ‘I could do this for the service and the service could help me do this,’” Sue said. “He’s getting something from the service, but he also feels he has something to give the Army.”
Moving away from home for the first time presents new freedoms, as well as challenges. Ivankovich wasn’t an exception as he began his freshman year of college and Army ROTC.
“My freshman year, that first semester was definitely really tough on me,” he said. “I didn’t get as good of grades as I usually do, I was spending more time investing in my social life, which was great, but at the expense of school, and at the expense of ROTC.”
As his first college semester came to a close, Ivankovich took time to reflect and decided a change needed to happen.
“I just realized that the way I was living was not sustainable if I wanted to reach my goals,” he said. “I constantly change up my plans for the future, that’s something that I really like to do. That comes with a lot of reflection and trying to see as many blind spots as I can.”
“I feel like balance is so important,” Ivankovich adds. “Growing up, my parents would always say, ‘Moderation is key.’ I think that fed into me trying to find balance, and with that comes making mistakes and being vulnerable at times, you’re growing.”
Ivankovich went on to finish his first year of college with a completely different mindset. His grades were up and he was named the top MS1 Cadet in the MSU program. He appreciates the experiences and views his Cadre and peers in the program have brought to the table.
“The people there, at first I thought they might be a tough crowd to roll with, but they’re very helpful and they push me and encourage me to try my best,” he said. “They’re some of my best friends.”
Because of Ivankovich’s accomplishments during his first year in the MSU Army ROTC program, he was asked to participate as OPFOR (opposing forces) to help with training during last summer’s Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
This year, Ivankovich continues to make strides. Ivankovich was recently chosen as a Project GO scholarship recipient and travels to Jordan for 10 weeks this summer with a mix of other service ROTC Cadets from across the country.
Project GO is a nationwide program for ROTC students to develop linguistic and cross-cultural communication skills while studying overseas.
“I just think it’s going to be so much fun and another experience for me to really grow as a person and just see more of the world,” Ivankovich said. “Being an Anthropology major, I’m interested in culture and the language.
His parents describe having a wide range of emotions as they watch their son chase his passions.
“I’m sitting back and watching with so much excitement, and pride, and love,” Sue said. “I’m thinking, ‘Wow! What is he going to choose? What is his next step?’ It’s probably something that I can’t even fathom.”
Kirk has noticed a lot of positive changes in his son–especially in his sense of pride.
“Before, it was just a thought, but now he’s wearing it. When I say it was a thought, I mean his service, and helping those that can’t, and being patriotic, before, that was just a thought,” Kirk said. “Now he’s wearing his pride, and it’s becoming more a part of him and more ingrained.”
“Our military and the people that decide to serve for our country, in my mind, are our most valuable citizens,” Kirk adds. “One of them just happens to be my son.”
Even though 20-year-old Ivankovich still has two years left in school and Army ROTC, he’s started to think about his future as an Officer.
“I think taking Arabic and this Project GO opportunity, as well as my majors, would make me a great candidate to be in military intelligence,” he said. “I would love to do things related to my degree and related to other countries.”
He’s also spent time molding his leadership style to impact the people he serves.
“I just really want to help people,” Ivankovich said. “I think that’s ultimately what we’re on the planet to do and that’s how we leave our mark is through our good deeds and through helping others that’s how we live on at least on earth once were gone.”
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.