Female cadet thrives in Army ROTC

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Anna Savage’s Army Physical Fitness Test scores are among the best in the BYU Cougar Battalion. She sets the standard of excellence, even among the male cadets she serves with.

Savage, a junior from Highland, is one of 36 women among 266 men in her battalion and is proof that women can excel as soldiers in today’s Army. The Army recently announced that women will be allowed into combat positions previously open only to men. It is a change Savage embraces.

Savage joined the BYU Army ROTC program her freshman year on a four-year scholarship. Like many cadets, Savage struggled to pass her first physical fitness test. David Jungheim, the ROTC scholarship and enrollment coordinator, remembers her efforts.

Anna Savage excels in BYU's Army ROTC program. Photo courtesy of BYU Army ROTC.
Cadet Anna Savage excels in BYU’s Army ROTC program. (Photo courtesy of BYU Army ROTC)

“I was immediately impressed at the happy, positive attitude that she had,” Jungheim said. “It wasn’t this doom and gloom that ‘I failed my first PT test. … I should just give up now. …’ She knew what she had to do, and she did it.”

Savage passed the fitness test on her third try. She worked hard to improve her score and now consistently earns a 300, the highest possible score for the test.

Savage has continued to improve both her physical and military skills. She has earned notable awards, including exceeding standards at the Bataan Memorial Death March, participating in the winning Ranger Challenge Team, being the Best Overall MSII (2nd year) cadet and earning the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

As a female in the male-dominated ROTC program, Savage said it is hard not to stand out. However, the attention she receives has been positive and encouraging.

“I really love the environment here,” Savage said. “I feel like each cadre (instructor) has been a mentor to me. They’ve all shown me their own perspectives and all taught me a lot.”

ROTC cadets are required to wear their uniforms regularly for classes. Savage remembers her first few times in camouflage.

“You’re definitely not camouflaged when you’re wearing camo,” Savage said. “You stick out like a sore thumb, especially as a female in the uniform because people are like, ‘Whoa, never seen that before.’ So it’s definitely an interesting experience.”

As a freshman, she signed up for the Ranger Challenge Team. Ranger Challenge is like a varsity sport for the Army ROTC and is comprised of talented, dedicated cadets who meet five times a week to increase their physical capabilities and military skill.

Lt. Col. Dewey Boberg, professor of military science and head of the BYU Army ROTC program, said Savage has a can-do attitude that rubs off on those with whom she works.

Cadet Savage as the acting First Sargent of the BYU Army ROTC at the Presidential Review Nov. 2012. Photo courtesy of BYU Army ROTC.
Cadet Savage as the acting First Sargent of the BYU Army ROTC at the Presidential Review in November 2012. (Photo courtesy of BYU Army ROTC)

“(She) signed up for (Ranger Challenge) right away and immediately had a positive impact on the other cadets on the Ranger Challenge team,” Boberg said. “She kept pushing them a little harder, pushing them a little further, consistently improving. And I would say in the two and half years she’s been here, that’s been her story.”

As Savage looks forward to her career as an officer in the Army, she is glad the Army is giving women the opportunity to serve in combat positions. Combat positions generally have a higher physical standard because the work is more physically demanding than are other positions.

The Army is currently working to establish gender-neutral standards for those positions. Savage is excited for the change but hopes they don’t lower the standards for women.

“I don’t want a free pass,” Savage said. “I don’t want to get anything just because of my gender. If I’m going to do something like that, I want to be able to do it on the same level and scale that (males) are doing it. It would be extra hard, but it would be worth it.”

Boberg believes Savage has the commitment and capability that would make her successful in a combat role.

“It’s really strong women like Anna Savage that go into those branches,” Boberg said.

For her part, Savage is enjoying her ROTC experience and the benefits that have come as a result of the training she has received.

“I definitely have seen myself change a lot since this program,” Savage said. “I feel more confident, (I am a) much better leader, I feel more in control of my life. Basically, it has influenced everything.”

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