Each month, Jagwire features a cadet who is enrolled in Augusta University’s ROTC program and a member of the Jaguar Army ROTC Battalion. For February, we spoke with Cadets Gene Smoak and Jamir Malone.
Where are you from and what high school did you attend?
Smoak: I was born in Manhattan, New York, and my family moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, after I completed middle school. I attended and graduated from Lebanon High School.
Malone: I went to high school at Grovetown High School located in Grovetown, Georgia.
Why did you choose to attend Augusta University?
Smoak: I chose Augusta University because of the accredited Master in Public Health program the school offers. Additionally, I was stationed at Fort Gordon before becoming a cadet and the staff at the ROTC department were always available for questions and helped to ease the transition from being enlisted to a cadet. Based on their willingness to see me grow in my career, I knew that Augusta University and the ROTC program were perfect for me.
Malone: I chose Augusta because of the ROTC program.
How did you become interested in the ROTC/military?
Smoak: I enlisted in the military directly out of high school. My family did not have the financial means to send me to college and I did not want to take out thousands of dollars in student loans. Therefore, I enlisted with a goal to further my college education and be the first in my family to serve in the military.
Malone: I became interested in the ROTC program because I thought about enlisting into the Army right after college. My parents, who are retired Army, thought going to college and going the officer route would be the best route for me to take.
Why did you choose to pursue the degree that you’ve selected?
Smoak: I chose to pursue my master’s in public health because I believe that the threat of disease and other illnesses will continue long after the current pandemic. With the recent innovations in preventive medicine, environmental health, and other health care fields, caring for the communities we live in will continue to be pivotal, and demand in the field is at an all-time high.
Malone: I am a criminal justice major. The reason I chose this degree is because I am thinking about branching into military intelligence.
What are your long-term plans for the military?
Smoak: I plan on staying in the military for 20 years. I am currently at six years of service, and I could not see myself doing anything different than serving my country.
Malone: I do plan to retire from the Army.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions of being in the ROTC?
Smoak: The biggest misconception of being in the ROTC program is that it only encompasses intense physical fitness and military tactics. While the program does cover these areas, it is done in a manner that gradually builds up. Even so, I believe the biggest takeaway from this program is the leadership skills, confidence and friendships you build with your peers.
Malone: One of the biggest misconceptions about the ROTC programs is that cadets have no social life outside of school. This is not true because you are given a lot of free time outside of the program.
Use one word to describe cadet life.
Malone: One word I can describe the cadet life is “busy.” The reason why is because not only do you have to manage the ROTC workload, you also must manage all your other classes and job.
What has been the hardest adjustment to preparing for the military?
Smoak: One of the hardest adjustments to preparing for life in the military is being away from family. Being enlisted prior, most of my family still lives in New York, and missing some holidays with them can be upsetting. However, the staff and fellow cadets in the battalion always welcome those in my situation with open arms. For example, the battalion held a “Friendsgiving” during the holidays, which helped bring in the holiday spirit.
Malone: The hardest part for preparing for the military is time management. I wasn’t used to planning ahead. I always used to wait until the last minute to complete a task. Learning how to time manage made college a lot easier because I am not stressing all the time trying to complete an assignment at the last minute.
What are you most excited about now that you are a part of Jaguar Nation and the Jaguar Battalion?
Smoak: I am most excited about learning the new techniques, tactics and expanding on my leadership abilities. I have learned so much already and can’t wait to build on that.
Malone: What I am most excited about now being part of the Jaguar Battalion is the date May 2023, when I commission and graduate from college.
Use one word to sum up your experience as a Jaguar.
Malone: Challenging. The reason I say this is because this program will push you outside of your comfort zone so you could have a better chance to succeed later — not just in the Army, but in life as well.