Fernando Reyna, a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet and a University of Texas at Brownsville graduate with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice-police administration, became the first, under a partnership with UTB and The University of Texas-Pan American, to be commissioned as an officer with the United States Army Reserves, earning the title of second lieutenant.
"It took a lot of hard work, determination and sacrifice, but in the end it all paid off when my family was watching me being commissioned," Reyna said. "Through the ROTC program I have done some wonderful traveling, making me a well-rounded individual so that I can give back to my community and soldiers."
The ROTC program was established at UTPA more than 30 years ago and is currently home to about 50 cadets. The full ROTC partnership with UTB was formed in 2009 and has grown to have 40 cadets.
UTB's ROTC program began as a satellite school for UTPA, meaning University faculty would drive to Brownsville to teach classes and UTB cadets would drive to UTPA for advanced classes and physical training. With a full partnership, UTB falls under the command of UTPA regarding budget, direction and guidance. In addition, UTPA also provides full-time ROTC faculty to UTB.
"We see this partnership as a team, it's seamless because we work together," said Colonel Maricela Alvarado. "It builds relationships between both universities because we support each other and our students."
Reyna said he began the program knowing it was what he wanted to do, but he did not know what to expect overall.
"I was going into new uncharted territory, but the UTPA ROTC faculty were my guides and support," Reyna said. "All my questions, concerns and worries were directed to them and they were always willing to help. I got to work closely with UTPA and develop great relationships."
Through the ROTC program, Reyna had the opportunity to travel to places such as Camp Bullis, Texas; Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio; Fort Lewis, Washington and West Point Academy in New York. His next stop will be Fort Lee, Virginia where he will train to be a transportation officer and learn about the transportation of materials, load plans, route movement, sea ports and ship operations and aerial transportation.
"I have already accomplished so much and I want to continue growing as an individual and polish my leadership skills," Reyna said. "The sky is the limit and I want to shoot for the stars. I want to go up, up, up."
Reyna will return to the Rio Grande Valley after five months in Virginia to work as a reserve officer for a U.S Army Reserve Transportation Company in Brownsville. He is also looking into employment with the U.S. Customs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and the Brownsville Police Department.
"The ROTC partnership is growing tremendously...and all of this is available to me because of it," Reyna said.
Second Lieutenant Forrest Taylor, a gold bar recruiter for UTPA's ROTC program, said Reyna is a dependable officer and leader with whom he looks forward to working.
"Reyna is a very wise and knowledgeable individual who has this aura of confidence and motivation that exudes," Taylor said. "Great and wonderful things always come from him, he's a great officer and I would definitely love to work with him at anytime and would love to go to battle with him."
Many UTPA cadets have found success through the ROTC program as well. Cadet Amado Herrera recently attended the Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC) camp and accomplished an "E," the highest score anyone can receive in performance. Taylor said less than 20 percent of the 6,500 cadets that go to this camp receive this score.
"He's a great individual and this means he's one of the best," Taylor said. "This is rare and difficult to get, but he got it while representing UTPA and what we do."
Other UTPA cadet achievements include: Cadet Imelda Rodriguez, who became airborne qualified after successfully completing airborne school; Cadet Ramiro Carmona, who had the opportunity of shadowing officers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Cadet Alberto Castro who completed his mountain warfare training, earning a mountain warfare pin.