Campus Spotlight

Many seniors are worrying how they will earn a living after graduation and what they will do once they enter the “real world.” For ROTC (Reserved Officer Training Corps) cadet and graduate student Danielle Burro, it is all figured out; just not set in stone.

Born and raised in Landing, NJ, Burro entered St. John’s not knowing she wanted to be in the United States Army. She started out as a biology major and aspired to be a veterinarian. Burro heard about the ROTC program during her freshman orientation and thought it would be an interesting job to be a veterinarian in the Army; before this, Burro said she would have never seen herself in the military at all.

Although she had no previous knowledge of the Army, she thought she would give it a shot. Her first year in ROTC was a little frightening.

“I was very intimidated by the uniforms and the discipline,” Burro said, “but after meeting great people, I decided to stay in the program.”

After her freshman year, she knew that she was dedicated and wanted to stay the full four years. She also decided to change her major to criminal justice.

In her sophomore year she was contracted into the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army indicates that when a cadet contracts, what they will do and where they will go is unknown until a student’s senior year.

In order to contract, the Army also requires cadets to pass the physical training (PT) test. In order for a 19-year-old female to pass the PT test, she needs to do a minimum of 19 push ups in two minutes, a minimum of 53 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in under 18 minutes and 58 seconds.

Burro passed the PT test, facing several obstacles along the way. She failed the test many times but the Sergeant and Colonel of the ROTC program assisted and encouraged her during those times of weakness and doubt.

“I was really discouraged but the more physical training I did, the more I wanted to work harder,” Burro said. “I couldn’t have done it without Sergeant Jolley. He would make time to run with me in the afternoons.”

Burro’s contract states she has to serve four years active and four years reserve; she was also given a full two and a half year scholarship and a resident scholarship.

Being in ROTC has not been easy for Burro, especially when fellow students have chosen to make insensitive , anti-war comments upon seeing Burro in uniform.

“I am not for war or for killing,” Burro said. “My main mission is to help fix things over there in Iraq. I defend the Army but I never try to force my views on anyone.”

By her third year of ROTC, Burro was sent to a Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC), which is a camp that all cadets must pass in order to become commissioned into the Army as second lieutenants.

“Our third year was all about maintaining a good PT score, learning what to do in every leadership position and getting ready for camp,” Burro explained.

While preparing for camp, Burro was also taking emergency medical technician courses. Her schedule consisted of taking classes at St. John’s during the day, then driving to New Jersey to take her EMT classes, only to arrive back at the St. John’s dorms at 12:00 a.m. Burro had to wake up every morning at 5:30 a.m. for physical training.

Burro, who attended LDAC this summer and enjoyed it, said it was nothing short of challenging. As soon as she arrived at Fort Lewis, Wash., she did not feel as though she belonged.
“There were people there in their 30’s and they had 10 years experience in the Army,” Burro said. “The first two weeks they treated me like I wasn’t worth it because I was a female. [But] you have to prove that you are strong physically, emotionally, and mentally.”

When the male cadets would find out important information, Burro would not go to her barracks to get the information. It was not until she proved herself one day in camp that she gained the respect of all cadets.

“We had to go into a gas chamber, and since I was a squad leader, I had to stay for 20 seconds, which was a little longer than the rest of the people in my squad,” Burro explained. “After five seconds, you can’t breath and your throat starts closing up. Your first instinct is to touch your face but they hit your hands every time you try to do so, and if I left before the 20 seconds were up, I would have to go again.”

After that day, Burro was respected by both female and male cadets. While being in the gas chamber was one of the most memorable moments at her time in camp, she also had to stay 10 days in the field without hot food or showers. During those 10 days she had to carry all of her equipment that she needed on her back.

Burro completed camp and ranked at number three in her whole platoon of 48 people and ranked 282 out of 3,806 people that went to camp, which is in the top 10 percent of everyone who participated. Because of her outstanding job at camp she had the privilege of choosing the branch she wanted.
“I wanted to branch Military Intelligence but I chose MP (Military Police), because it’s the closest a girl can go to infantry and it’s closely related to my major,” Burro said. “After I complete my four years of active duty I would like a federal job in drug enforcement.”

Currently Burro is in her fourth year of ROTC and is taking 14 credits. By the end of the year, she will have earned her Master’s degree in criminal justice. Burro also earned her Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice after only three years.
Burro’s biggest goal in ROTC is to help, encourage and support anyone who needs it. It is what she is doing now and hopes to continue to do after she is commissioned into the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant in 2007.

Her job in her fourth year of ROTC is to help any cadet who needs her help, especially those cadets getting ready to go to camp, but she has advice for all females.

“Do not be discouraged,” Burro urged. “Females should hold strong. We are just as good as [males] and we are needed just as much as men. The Army has opened up many opportunities for women.”