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Claudia Bacon, who graduated in June, is now an Army aviation officer.
the Army never crossed Claudia Bacon’s mind until her senior year of
high school in Winchester, Massachusetts. She decided to attend the
University of Delaware and try the Army ROTC
After that trial year, she fell in love.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I was thinking I’ll try out ROTC, no harm no foul,” Bacon said. “I got sucked in real fast, but I loved it. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
That decision had a key element: Would she commit to serve? After
lots of thinking and long uneasy conversations with her family, Bacon
decided to go all in. In exchange for her commitment to go on active
duty, Bacon was awarded a scholarship, which paid for her tuition during
her last three years, plus a monthly stipend.
The decision truly changed her life. Bacon, a 2019 graduate who
earned her degree in international relations, is now a second lieutenant
aviation officer in the U.S. Army. She began training on June 6 at Fort
Rucker in Alabama.
It was not an easy journey to get to this point. As a first-year
student, Bacon faced the typical challenges that most college students
encounter. In addition to honing her time management skills and
adjusting to college-level classes, she had lots of training and took
additional classes to prepare for service. That’s already a lot, but
Bacon’s competitive nature pushed her to strive for more.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Members of UD's Army ROTC Team Diesel celebrate after their first-place finish in the 4th Brigade Ranger Challenge in Virginia last October. In her senior year, Claudia Bacon was the team captain.
That same year, she tried out for a select group of Army ROTC members,
Team Diesel, which competes in special competitions. She could barely
finish a five-mile run and did not make the team.
“I honestly expected it, as I wasn’t in great shape at all,” Bacon
said. “I was fine with it at first, but … I knew somewhere in me, I had
the potential to be on that team. I wasn’t naturally very good at
running or lifting, but I did realize that I was competitive and I
wasn’t about letting lack of hard work be a reason for not achieving my
She began to train harder than ever and made the team the next time
around. She was a member during her sophomore and junior year. By senior
year, Bacon was the team captain.
During her senior year, a typical day began with physical training at
5:30 a.m., with the other dozen members of Team Diesel, followed by
military training, which included classes on Army logistics, operations
and weapons. Then she had academic classes and homework. As team
captain, Bacon was also responsible for developing the team’s training
and documenting any equipment needs as they prepared for their first
competition, the Ranger Challenge.
Dubbed the varsity sport of ROTC, the 4th Brigade Ranger
Challenge is an annual competition between other regional ROTC teams.
The event took place on Oct. 20-21, 2018, at Fort Pickett in Blackstone,
Virginia. UD team members surprised themselves by winning the
Team Diesel, a select group of cadets from UD’s Army ROTC program, at the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at West Point,
The team’s training wasn’t over yet, as the victory meant they would
go on to compete in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in New
York at West Point. The challenge is a 27-mile long course and includes a
number of military obstacle events like grenade launching and rowboat
exercises. On April 12-13, Team Diesel competed against ROTC teams from
across the country that placed first in the various regional
competitions, as well as some international teams.
Although the team did not win, they should be proud of their
performance, said Thomas Rieck, senior military science instructor and
the team’s coach.
“Claudia herself, she’s an alpha type personality — which we
encourage all our cadets to be as future leaders in the military — but
she’s definitely an A type among A types,” Rieck said. “Fostering
fellowship and everything, and the camaraderie is half the battle and
keeping morale up. I think she walked the balance very well.”
Bacon said Sandhurst was the most difficult thing she has ever done.
She described it as taxing on both the body and the mind. But she was
determined to finish and learned so much about herself in the process.
“I learned how far I can push myself,” she said. “I thought that I
knew what pain was, but I actually didn’t know how far I could take it. I
got to a point where I thought I would be struggling, but I realized if
you keep your head in the game, you keep your head down and you keep
going, you really can keep going.”
In that moment, Bacon said she also realized the true meaning of leadership.
“Ever since my first year on the team, I constantly heard, 'If you aren’t doing it for yourself, do it for the guy or girl sucking just as much next to you,'
” Bacon said. “Anytime I’m hurting, I don’t look at quitting or slowing
down as an option. You keep going because you care about your team, and
you care about the blood, sweat and tears everyone of them have put
into the team.”
Bacon ranked second among the 50 team captains for her leadership.
Aside from ROTC, Bacon also fell in love with CrossFit while at the
University. She became a certified trainer and taught a few evening
classes throughout the week at the Carpenter Sports Building. Bacon said
she also enjoys cooking and trying new things. During the spring
semester, she went skydiving and axe throwing for the first time.
Reflecting on her time at UD, Bacon said the ROTC program and her
experience as a leader of the special team of cadets was the stepping
stone to find the career of her dreams. She encourages all students to
make the most of their college experience.
“College is one of the best places to meet people,” Bacon said. “I
think meeting people can teach you a lot about yourself and about life
in general. You never ever know who you’ll meet, so I think getting
involved and just being outgoing and friendly and taking advantage of
opportunities is definitely the most valuable thing I learned.”
Team Diesel 2018-19 Members
The 2019 team that competed in the 4th Brigade Ranger Challenge and
the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition included: Claudia Bacon,
Patrick Thomas, Matthew Daniels, Nick Layton, Lucas Partlow, Alex
Laundree, Connor Shields, Luke Granbois, Matthew Chybicki, Lauren Gomez,
Dylan Connors, Jake Campbell, Celena DeLara and Paul Giesing. For
2019-20, Partlow and Lundree will serve as co-captains for the team.
Article by Carlett Spike; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and courtesy of Claudia Bacon
Published July 1, 2019