New Mexico Military Institute cadet embarks on Army path to legal success

By Lauren RehoMay 7, 2024

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FORT KNOX, Ky. – A soon-to-be graduate of the New Mexico Military Institute is taking the success she found at school and springboarding into her next adventure – commissioning as an officer in the Army.

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, NMMI cadet Mackenzie Kirsch is set to graduate, May 4, as her class valedictorian. Having focused her education on criminal justice, Kirsch said she next plans to pursue her dream career in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

“When it comes to NMMI and being a cadet, you get what you give,” Kirsch said. “Whatever you want to get out of your training, academics and career, you have to be willing to give whatever amount of work it takes to get that.”

Raised in a family with a legacy at NMMI, Kirsch said she was inspired to apply and follow in her father’s footsteps. She said she was drawn to the institution’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and early commissioning track because they would set her up for a lifetime of success.

Since she first began attending NMMI in the fall of 2022, Kirsch said she was fortunate to hold numerous leadership positions. Most recently, she has been serving as the Regimental Provost Marshal in the Corps of Cadets, overseeing the constabulary and ensuring security at different campus events.

In addition to her military duties, Kirsch said she also has many other roles at NMMI including vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, operations officer for ROTC, and serving on the school Honor Board. She is also a peer tutor specializing in history, social science and military science.

Kirsch said she credits her academic success to the unwavering support of her instructors. She said all teachers come to class early every day to be a resource for student questions and any clarification on assignments.

“These teachers will help you with everything you need to know,” Kirsch said. “That’s one of the main reasons I have the GPA that I have and have been able to maintain it. The teachers here are next level.”

With a deep passion for mentorship, Kirsch said she loves guiding young cadets and teaching them the importance of determination and time management. When asked for advice, she said she tells them that it is imperative to have a work ethic that allows them to push to the extreme.

Two other experiences Kirsch said had a profound effect on her during her time at NMMI was when she was sent to the Military Entrance Processing Station, Ranger College and a recruiting assignment in Houston, Texas. She said witnessing individuals’ first steps of their military careers underscored her belief in the transformative power of the Army – inspiring students to envision a future of limitless possibilities.

“One of the most beautiful things about recruiting, especially for the Army, is that we have so many different things to offer,” Kirsch said. “People don’t often realize what the Army is all about. Typically, you think Army is infantry and blowing things up, but we have everything.”

According to Kirsch, the recruiting assignment consisted of visiting high schools every day for back-to-back activities. She expressed that many high-school aged students aren’t sure what they want to do after graduation, so Recruiters help them to understand their options, figure out their goals, and what’s needed to achieve them.

“Listening to people’s dreams and goals and walking them through possibilities of how they can get there is an amazing experience,” Kirsch said. “I think that is one of the greatest things about the Army – you can be anything you want to be, and the Army will set you up for success.”

Reflecting on her experiences at NMMI, Kirsch said she had many moments of friendship and resilience – from the challenges of competing with an injury during the Ranger Challenge, to bonding with fellow cadets during field training exercises. These experiences are symbolic of the profound sense of unity that is fostered within the military community, she said.

“It’s that camaraderie that you build,” Kirsch said. “You realize how much people actually care when you are all struggling and fighting the same fight.”

Kirsch said her pursuit of excellence will continue this summer as she attends Advanced Camp, where she will commission as an officer upon completion. She will then head to Syracuse University to get her bachelor’s degree while drilling with the Vermont National Guard. Kirsch said although her military occupational specialty will be with the Adjutant General’s Corps, she will be participating in the JAG Shadow Program, where she will learn from a judge advocate general firsthand.

Following graduation, Kirsch said she plans to attend law school, pass the bar examination, and then go straight into JAG. She said both the Army and NMMI have been transformative forces in her life and have firmly established her trajectory toward a career in law.

“The Army has done so much for me,” Kirsch said. “I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t come to NMMI or joined the Army. I can’t imagine my life any way else.”