One little girl dreamed of night-vision goggles in her Christmas stocking and worried neighbors and strangers by climbing tall trees — but that was years ago.
Today that little girl, Anna Savage, is a BYU student who graduates in April as the highest ranking female in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and the ninth overall among 5,575 male and female seniors across the nation.
“I’m very, very proud,” Anna’s mom, Heather Savage, said. “I think she’s not just got my admiration but the admiration of everyone who’s had the honor and opportunity to get a chance to work with her.”
Anna grew up dreaming of adventure. She enjoyed being outdoors and working with a team. She was always seen as a strong support to those around her. Anna recalls wanting to be a cowgirl, an astronaut and a spy.
She is currently seeking a career related to military intelligence. She is the first in her immediate family to be in the military since her grandparents served.
Three years ago, Anna stood out for her high physical fitness scores and determination. Her achievements and involvement since then have led her to rank as ninth in the nation — a number that stands out considering the Go Army report that says only 20 percent of cadets are women.
The rankings are based on grade point average, strong performance on the Army Physical Fitness Test, college athletic participation and performance during college ROTC training and the Cadet Leadership Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, according to Army Times.
Heather believes that Anna’s willingness to serve in any capacity made an impression. At every opportunity, Anna was ready to step up and serve. She helped the Ranger Challenge Team — the varsity sport for the ROTC — get first place for three years. She has received many awards including the American Legion Scholastic Excellence Medal and the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Silver ROTC Medal. She also worked while in school, played on an intramural soccer team and was part of the Japan Club.
“She was making an impact and now we see that that steamed effort has taken it to a new level,” Anna’s father, Paul Savage said. “To be the number one female in the country at her level is remarkable.”
Anna’s best friend helped lead her to the ROTC at the beginning. Andrea Price, a UVU student, decided to test out the Air Force ROTC. It piqued Anna’s interest and to the surprise of Andrea, Anna joined the ROTC at BYU.
“I don’t recall her ever mentioning the military per se but … when she puts her mind to something, she’s unstoppable,” Andrea said.
Anna’s family was also surprised but they supported her. Anna’s father took her to campus and watched as she excitedly walked into the recruiting office.
After the first year, Andrea decided the military was not a good fit for her. Anna loved it though and continued training “one step at a time.” She became fascinated by the army and enjoyed the teamwork and challenges.
“If you want to do something, you can do it — that’s always been my mentality,” Anna said.
However, Anna had to grow accustomed to army culture and lingo. Weapons were new to her. She sometimes yanked on the trigger too hard or anticipated the shot. Older cadets helped teach her to shoot until she was comfortable on her own.
There were many people cheering Anna on, but she also came across those who believed women should not enter the workforce. Anna felt differently.
“I’ve definitely learned for myself and have a testimony that God has a special calling for each woman and it’s not always going to be cookie cutter,” Anna said.
One of Anna’s hardest challenges was trying to keep up with the men on her team. She didn’t want to let her team down, so she kept working at it. Now, Anna can easily compete through physical fitness levels and exercises, but knowing that is not strong enough to carry a larger injured teammate away from danger is something that keeps Anna away from combat.
“There’s so many pros and cons,” Anna said. “It’s such an important role of defending the country that I just want to make sure that … everyone has each other’s backs.”
As a linguistics major, Anna feels that she can support her team the most in military intelligence, which also ties in to her linguistics major at BYU.
“I really like being able to see the big picture and being able to analyze all the little variables,” Anna said. “I’m very detail-oriented and so it’s just been a fit for me as well as researching and studying about things. I really love learning so I never get sick of that.”
But being the top female is not necessarily what she was aiming for.
“I think it was just a positive result from becoming passionate about what I was doing,” Anna said. “Because I really loved working in the ROTC, it wasn’t a burden. It was more like a challenge: something new to learn, something more to do, more friends to make and meet. If stuff like that becomes fun, it’s hard not to excel — to be involved and give it your all.”
Anna’s post-graduation plans include marrying her fiancé, Matthew Hodge, who she met on her LDS Church mission in Japan. She will then spend four months training for military intelligence before she heads to Germany to start her career in the army. She wants to be the best officer she can be as she gives back and teaches cadets what she has learned.
“It feels a little bit humbling because I know a lot of cadets look to me as a role model,” Anna explained. “Just knowing that now I’m getting to the point where I’m going to actually be doing stuff in the army and that there’s work to be done, I guess I just want to do my best there too.”