Second Lieutenant Interview: Stephen Hoeprich

Stephen Hoeprich '16
  1. What are your plans after graduation?

I was commissioned into the New York Army National Guard as an Engineer Officer. I will be a Platoon Leader with an Engineer unit in southern NY. The Army National Guard functions a bit differently than the Reserves or the Active Duty Army. The National Guard, unlike the Reserves, is under the jurisdiction of the Governor of the State. As for my commitment, I will serve for a minimum of 8 years. The Guard is not full-time, so I will also be working at a civilian job, which I am still seeking at the moment. I am graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree, and am looking at jobs with defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Raytheon.

2. What made you join the program?

I joined the program for a number of reasons. I have a family legacy within the Army as both of my brothers also did Army ROTC and commissioned into the active duty Army in 2001 and 2003, respectively. They came to my commissioning and are in one of the pictures I attached. Another reason why I joined is because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. Ever since before I can remember, I knew I wanted to be in the military, and ROTC was the best path I could set foot down to achieve that goal. Lastly but certainly not least, the ROTC scholarship which I successfully competed for my freshman year financially enabled me to attend a school of Union’s caliber. Because of that scholarship, I received a great education and world-class leadership training from the Army and am graduating virtually debt-free.

3. What is your fondest memory from the ROTC program?

My fondest memory from ROTC is a toss-up between two events: Both field training exercises I took part in this year. The first was in the fall of 2015 and was memorable because I saw the juniors, sophomores and freshmen we had taught for the semester leading up to the exercise actually learn from experience and apply that learning to their leadership. Over the course of the fall semester I, along with a small team of other seniors, trained the juniors to take on the toughest roles of leadership in the field. Their leadership of the sophomores and freshmen in stressful mock combat scenarios improved dramatically over the course of a single day. Our particular group was recognized for excellence at the end of the exercise and made me particularly proud. The other moment was the conclusion of the second field exercise in the spring, this April. The spring field exercise combines three schools’ ROTC programs together for a joint exercise. I was placed as second in command and chief of staff for the entire exercise. It was my responsibility to oversee and carry out the planning for a four day exercise that involved well over 250 Cadets, Cadre and even several helicopter units in the area. The planning was very difficult, took over six months, and involved several three-hour drives to Burlington, VT to plan at the training site. When the whole exercise was over and proved incredibly successful, I was relieved and proud to have provided good training to everyone involved, including myself.

4. How do you feel your experience in the program will help you in the future?

My involvement in the ROTC program has left me with invaluable experience in all facets of leadership. It was extremely difficult at times, and I paid for it with grades, social life and comfort, but it was well worth it. Having been stressed nearly to the point of complete breakdown multiple times, I emerged stronger each time and now feel very ready for life after school. I gained a tremendous amount of leadership experience and professionalism. After working in an environment where I am responsible for the safety and success of other people, I understand the importance of responsibility and accountability. I have gained significant experience working with both large and small teams, since ROTC work focuses heavily on team dynamics and collaboration. I built strong interpersonal and presentation skills by briefing large groups of people in stressful environments. As a result, I developed the ability to communicate clearly and present information effectively. Additionally, I have experience working with diverse groups of people from various cultures and backgrounds after ROTC gave me the opportunity to travel to Africa to teach English. ROTC taught me to hold myself to high personal and professional standards, and pressured me to produce quality work within strict timelines. Now I have a strong work ethic and exemplary time management skills. I learned to embrace challenges and adapt to change, preparing me for ambiguous environments.

5. Any advice for the upcoming ROTC cadets?

  • Don’t settle for the easy way out. Challenges, discomfort, and failure all exist to make you better, and by running away from them or avoiding them, you are passing up opportunities to grow.
  • Score a 300 on the APFT as early as you can and maintain it.
  • Listen more than you speak and always remember you are representative of your organization, no matter what you are doing.
  • Being a leader is not always synonymous with being liked.
  • When the going gets tough, don’t try to do everything yourself–you have a team for a reason.
  • The best leaders are selfless. While you should still take care of yourself, never place your own comfort, time, or happiness above the people you are responsible for.
  • Lead by example and set the standard. Get up first, but go to sleep and eat last. Be in the right place at the right time in the right uniform, and most importantly with the right attitude.
  • Create structure and order where is none


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