ROTC cadets make history as first female infantry officers from OSU
Monday, December 12, 2022
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Two Army ROTC graduates made history this spring as the first female cadets from the Oklahoma State University Cowboy Battalion to be selected as infantry officers upon their graduation from OSU.
Keona Tidwell and Madeline Sloniker graduated in May, and are now heading to Fort Benning, Georgia, to attend the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course (IBOLC). Once they graduate IBOLC, they will officially be the first female infantry officers to come from OSU’s Army ROTC program.
“It really means a lot to me because we just set the standard for what’s to come,” Tidwell said. “And it’s not just setting the standard, it’s letting any new females joining the program know that they’re able to get into that branch. It’s not impossible.”
It’s not impossible, but for a long time, it was.
OSU has had a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program since 1916, when the university was still Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College. Numerous former cadets have gone on to serve the Army in the infantry, but women were not allowed to join the combat arms branches of the Army until 2017. Now, Tidwell and Sloniker will represent the Cowboy Battalion as they help prove that women are just as capable of leading in the infantry as men.
This accomplishment has been four years in the making. Tidwell graduated with her degree in applied exercise science pre-med, and Sloniker graduated with a double major in recreational therapy and human development family sciences. In addition to focusing on their academics, both women spent their time at OSU preparing for their futures by participating in training camps and exercises along with developing their leadership abilities. Tidwell even founded a multicultural sorority on campus — Alpha Tau Theta Nu Xi.
Their hard work has paid off because infantry is one of the most competitive branches of the Army, according to Lt. Col. Bo Reynolds, the head of the OSU Army ROTC department, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. It’s a sought-after assignment, but is also physically demanding, requiring people who can think critically and be problem solvers.
“Both Cadet Tidwell and Cadet Sloniker are very good,” Reynolds said. “They have demonstrated their abilities to do these things well and to lead the sons and daughters of our country. I’m very proud of those two and their ability to persevere through the four years it takes to go through ROTC and normal academic studies to achieve this goal and to achieve a commission.”
Tidwell and Sloniker accomplished a lot in their time at OSU, and they are poised to accomplish even more in the Army. They are two of seven graduates from the Cowboy Battalion this year who received an assignment for infantry, and they both expressed a desire to go to Ranger School after IBOLC.
Sloniker, who said she intends to stay in the infantry for her entire Army career, wants to do well at IBOLC and beyond not just for herself, but for women everywhere. She wants to encourage women to join male-dominated fields, not just within the military. She said she is honored to be given an opportunity to prove that women are just as strong and mentally tough as men.
“Women belong in combat arms and should be provided the same opportunities as men,” Sloniker said. “My goals are to complete IBOLC with high regards and complete Army Ranger school. These are very hard goals, but with the tools I have learned at Oklahoma State, I know they will come true.”
Story By: Ellie Melero, CAS alumna