From sergeant to commander: Fetterly’s ROTC journey


It had been four years since she enlisted in the United States National Guard with her mother, and she was now being promoted to sergeant. Unfortunately, Alexa Fetterly knew she had to start all over again to truly fulfill her goal of being more than just an enlisted woman in the U.S. Army.

Fetterly, a then-sophomore at Kansas State, was 21 and preparing to start over and build herself up to become an officer. After serving four years as an enlisted soldier, Fetterly decided to go back to college and join the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Fetterly handed in her rank of sergeant in exchange for the lowest rank on the road to becoming an officer. She was now Cadet Fetterly, member of the K-State Wildcat Battalion.

“After receiving the rank of sergeant as an enlisted soldier, I always knew no matter what rank I was, I would always be enlisted,” Fetterly said. “I knew that becoming an officer was the next goal I wanted to achieve.”

In order to become an officer, a cadet must obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree. Fetterly had thought about being a teacher, but she discovered a passion for political science after entering the military.

“What I really enjoy about political science is that it perfectly coincides with my military career,” Fetterly said. “My major was education, but I realized that I wouldn’t be a teacher for at least ten years. I feel like being a military officer requires a great deal of understanding, not just on the ground level but also on the political level as well. Also, I discovered a role for myself within the battalion that utilized my strengths as a teacher.”

Throughout her time in the ROTC program, Fetterly was active in both physically demanding and leadership-heavy roles. Whether it was being on the battalion’s Ranger Challenge Team, an elite group of cadets that compete against other collegiate ROTC programs across the region, or just showing up at 6 a.m. to physical training every morning, Fetterly was competitive not only against other cadets, but also with herself.

“I think that especially with so much of the sexism and bias that is a part of the military, I encouraged myself to not simply do what was required in terms of physical fitness scores and test scores, but to do more than what was asked of me,” Fetterly said.

All of her hard work and dedication was not overlooked. At the end of last year, the battalion commanders, also known as the cadre, decided who would become the next cadet battalion commander.

The CBC is the highest-ranking cadet in the entire battalion. They are in charge of organizing battalion events and coordinating with the cadre to declare what goals the cadets should be striving for as a group.

In order to even be considered as a candidate for the role of CBC, a cadet must exhibit leadership skills among their fellow cadets, high physical fitness scores, mental stamina, communication skills and the support of the battalion. After much deliberation, the cadre selected Fetterly for the role.

“Becoming the cadet battalion commander would probably have to be the greatest accomplishment of my career as a cadet here at Kansas State,” Fetterly said.

Cadet Lauren Wigger said Fetterly is always there for her cadets.

“Whether you feel unmotivated to obtain a desired physical fitness score, or when you feel the pressures of college life start to close in around you, she is there to help you get through it,” Wigger said.

Another cadet in the program, Josephine Hesse, also voiced her support for Fetterly.

“I definitely think that having accomplished female role models within the ROTC program has helped me better grasp my future goals and gives me hope that I can achieve them,” Hesse said.

As Fetterly’s days at K-State draw to a close, she is reflecting on her goals when she first arrived here at the university.

“My main goal when I came to K-State was to become a better leader,” Fetterly said. “The main difference between being enlisted in the army and being a cadet in ROTC is that when I was enlisted, I just told people to do things, whereas with ROTC, I have learned that in order for a person to succeed, I had to instill in them the desire to accomplish what was necessary for the group and for themselves.”

As always, Fetterly is also setting her eyes on what her future goals will be.

“I think that my future looks bright,” Fetterly said. “My boyfriend is currently deployed in Poland, but should be returning next year just in time to see me graduate as a second lieutenant. I hope to join the aviation branch of the army and in ten years hopefully be a major, a wife and a mother trying to juggle it all.”