Abby Erckenbrack says the lessons she learned and friendships she formed will last a lifetime
By Eric Ruble
Imagine waking up at 5 a.m. five days a week for four years. That’s what it takes to be an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet at USC. The program is based at USC Price.
Abigail “Abby” Erckenbrack admits those early mornings were sometimes a struggle – but they became easier the moment she saw her friends in the program.
“The people and the challenge of it are big reasons why I enjoyed it,” she said of ROTC.
Erckenbrack grew up in the shadow of the nation’s capital. Like many families in northern Virginia, hers has strong military connections. Each of her parents were active-duty Army officers for more than 20 years. Her mom was in the Medical Service Corps; her dad was in the Special Forces. Both retired as lieutenant colonels.
“They’re a huge influence on why I decided to do Army ROTC,” Erckenbrack said.
She will be commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Army on May 14 – the day after she graduates from USC Price with her bachelor of science in public policy.
Erckenbrack embraced a “student, scholar, athlete” attitude during her collegiate career. While her days often involved waking before dawn for training, they were also filled with classes, studying and a robust list of extracurricular activities: she is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and co-president of recruitment for Society 53, an undergraduate organization that connects alumni and students. She was also involved in student government as both a campaign manager and senate aide. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s a Warren Bennis scholar – a leadership program only open to 40 juniors and seniors.
Erckenbrack described the ROTC philosophy as one of “selfless service.”
“Being able to give to something bigger than yourself, I think, is the biggest draw for a lot of my friends and myself,” she said. “It’s an experience unlike anything else you can get on campus.”
Erckenbrack is one of 18 Army ROTC seniors commissioning to active-duty, Army Reserves and National Guard roles. She will be going into the Reserves and working in the Military Intelligence branch of the Army. This fall, she plans to apply to law and business school, and eventually hopes to earn her JD/MBA.
She says she was partly inspired to pursue both business and law due to a course she took in the USC Gould School of Law. Marissa Meli, associate general counsel of the Green Bay Packers, spoke to the class.
“She was fantastic. Her passion for her work showed when she spoke to us and that I want to emulate that within my work,” said Erckenbrack, who shared she is especially interested in sports law.
She will be leaving the ROTC program with lifelong friends and a set of values that will undoubtedly set her up for success.
“The best part of my ROTC experience has definitely been the personal and professional development,” she said.
Erckenbrack has no shortage of determination to achieve her goals. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding where she wants to channel it. She believes Army ROTC imbued her with a sense of resiliency that she will have for the rest of her life.
“Your comfort zone only expands when you step out of it,” she said.
All USC ROTC programs are based in USC Price. To learn more, visit its website.