Last Updated: June 19th, 2024By

FORT KNOX, Kentucky –  Cadet Madalena Roberts, 2nd Regiment, Advanced Camp, from University of Pittsburgh has a 20 year plan. Cadet Summer Training is just one of the many stepping stones to achieving her goals. 

The U.S. Army was not originally in the plan for Roberts, yet a comment from her dad changed the trajectory of her life.

“I’ll never forget this,” Roberts said. “We were in the car on the way back from a college tour and he looked at me and he said, ‘You know, it would be really cool if you were a helicopter pilot.’” 

The next week, she was sitting down talking to a U.S. Army recruiter. Roberts joined the Pennsylvania Reserves before attending college at the University of Pittsburgh.

Being the first service member in her family, Roberts wished she knew about the different paths available in the U.S. Army. 

“I think so many people when they do ROTC, they don’t realize the opportunities that have been afforded to them,” Roberts said. 

Since joining ROTC, she has taken advantage of opportunities like completing Air Assault School and traveling to Russia to master Cyrillic. 

Roberts grew up speaking German, but always desired to learn another language. Through Project Global Officer, she traveled to Kyrgyzstan where she fully immersed herself in Russian language and culture. For two months, she spent her days working with tutors or hanging out with her host family, only speaking Cyrillic. The program also supported immersion trips around the country to deepen cultural understanding.

“I’ve become far more than proficient in a whole new foreign language in two years and I’ve got to visit multiple Russian speaking countries,” Roberts said. “That’s never something I could have pursued without Army support.”

Project GO is an initiative by the Department of Defense to improve the language skills, regional expertise and intercultural communication of future military officers. The Defense Language and National Security Education Office provides institutional grants to universities for language and cultural training for ROTC Cadets. The goal is to develop future military leadership with necessary cross-cultural communication skills both domestically and abroad.

“With what’s going on in the world right now, I am not really sure what the future looks like,” Roberts said. “But having the ability to speak another language is not only good for that particular language, but if the Army in the foreseeable future wants me to learn another language, I have a higher aptitude.”

The next four months for Roberts are instrumental to her 20 year plan. After graduating CST, she will receive her branch for the U.S. Army.

“I think my branch will determine a lot of my trajectory for my career path, whether that’s staying for three years or doing all 20, some active duty, some reserve,” Roberts said. “The next four months are crucial to my career.”

Roberts’ 20 year plan concludes with becoming a Foreign Area Officer. Army Foreign Area Officers provide leadership and expertise in intercultural environments, utilizing foreign language proficiency and regional knowledge. 

While the next four months hold tremendous weight, Roberts plans to take it day by day and celebrate every victory, no matter how small.

About the Author: Kendall Kelly