Lake Norman High grad Shannon Martin could soon be on a battlefield in a tank.
“It’s kind of a big deal,” Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Jones, Martin’s ROTC instructor at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., told The (Macon) Telegraph. “Not many women have gone this route so far. There are more and more every year, but she is the first coming from Mercer.
“I see her succeeding and having some fun while she’s doing it,” Jones said. “She’s about what’s doing right and doing her part for the nation.”
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Martin is a senior at Mercer in line to become its first female ROTC graduate to enter into a combat arms branch of the U.S. Army.
Martin was a goalie on Lake Norman High’s lacrosse team. The school didn’t offer JROTC, but she wanted to join in college to follow in the footsteps of her grandfathers, who served in the Navy and the Marines, Martin told The Telegraph in a profile story published on Friday. Her parents are Ed and Kathleen Martin.
She had a national ROTC scholarship to the University of North Carolina, but the offer of a lacrosse scholarship to Mercer changed her mind. Later, she was able to switch to a four-year ROTC scholarship at Mercer.
After her freshman year, she realized her heart was more into ROTC, and she said goodbye to lacrosse, Martin told The Telegraph.
“Everything I was talking about was always ROTC,” she said. “It’s kind of a team atmosphere. That was what I was looking for when I joined lacrosse, but I found it in ROTC.”
The Army opened all its branches to women in April 2016, but no female cadets at Mercer volunteered last year, Jones told the newspaper.
Combat arms includes air defense artillery, aviation, engineers, field artillery, infantry and special operations forces, and armor. Martin said she volunteered for branch detail, which sends lieutenants to branches that need them, knowing she would most likely be assigned to combat arms.
As an armor officer, she will be on the battlefield in a tank or cavalry/forward reconnaissance vehicle.
Martin said she knows some remarkable women who wanted to enter combat arms but didn’t have the chance. “The Army just needed to catch up,” she said.
Her parents are “nervous but supportive” and have done a lot of research to make sure they understand what her role will be, Martin told The Telegraph.
Before combat arms opened to her, Martin considered military intelligence or medical service. She’s already doing intelligence work for her ROTC battalion. Medical school is in her plans, and she’s interested in trauma surgery. She works 30 hours a week at a medical center.
Combat arms is where she believes she can serve her country best.
She is scheduled to be commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 12, the day before Mercer’s commencement. Soon after graduation, she will report to Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., to train for at least six months before receiving her official post.
“It’s the people on the front lines that are directly effecting change,” Martin told the newspaper. “I’m just really excited to start, and I’m honored that I’m going to be one of the first female combat officers.”