By Shelby Pendowski, Enterprise intern
Nearing high school graduation at Suttons Bay, Curt Raftshol asked his daughter Olivia about her future plans.
Her response, like many high schoolers, was filled with uncertainty. The truth was, she had no idea.
As a former member of the U.S. Marines, he suggested his daughter join the Reserves Officer Training Corps. program. She did.
Now, nearly four years later, she graduated cum laude with a degree in Aviation Flight Technology from Eastern Michigan University and ROTC training from the University of Michigan. She’s now in basic training at Quantico, Va. to become a Marine naval aviator.
“It is just great for your character,” Olivia said, referring to the ROTC training that included 5 a.m. workouts and armed forces extracurriculars. “And you meet so many great people and you get a lot of opportunities that you don’t get in the civilian world.”
“Well her father was a Marine so we were thrilled. She is following her dad’s footstep,” Olivia’s stepmother Dr. Barbara Raftshol said. “She has become really focused, we see a lot of self-discipline. She has just really matured and blossomed and this is something she enjoys.”
Raftshol flew as an attack helicopter pilot in the 70s and 80s.
Olivia Raftshol, a 2010 Suttons Bay High School graduate, is eager to see where her military goes after being the only person among 413, including 370 men, to receive 100 percent on all of her physical fitness evaluations.
In the fall of 2013, she was named the designated student Commanding Officer of her ROTC battalion and is one of only two new Marine second lieutenants to come from the U of M and EMU ROTC program this year.
Living in Canada, Germany, Colombia, Guatemala, the Philippines and Ecuador with her father gave Olivia the opportunity to travel. She is looking forward to more travels.
Olivia Raftshol said her special connection with her dad helped her military development.
“We were already really, really close, and now we have a lot more to talk about,” Olivia said. “He has already been there so he gives me a lot of advice and words of wisdom.”
Olivia said she is still unsure as to her plans following her required eight-year military commitment, but she’ll have plenty of time to think about that.
She is certain of one thing — she made the right decision in joining the ROTC program.
“She is getting her education paid for, private pilot’s license and eight years of service,” Barbara said. “When you think about the investment and the return, it isn’t a 30-year sentence. It is reasonable. This is only a first career for a lot of people and it is a great start.”
The process to join the armed forces is different for those looking to enlist and those who look to join an ROTC program. Enlisting is as simple as going into the office and signing up, but to be an ROTC you must work towards obtaining a four-year degree while training, Olivia said.
The Raftshols are proud of Olivia’s military commitment even though conflicts around the world may put her in harm’s way.
“As to my personal feelings about her decision I will just say that I believe every citizen should accept some of the burdens of a free society, and not just enjoy all its benefits,” Olivia’s father said. “One way to do this is to wear your country’s uniform for a few years.
“As for the risks involved, danger is the spice of life and goes with the territory. It is an occupational hazard like any other.”