ROTC cadets

An ROTC Officer and a Gaucho Marine sit down with Coastlines to discuss splitting commitments and life in the service at UCSB

Kathy Chinchilla.

“I didn’t know about ROTC until I got here. It was orientation day and I saw the Army building

and I had dated someone who was in the service and I just loved his job. I loved it. All aspects of it: the comradery he had with friends he worked with, the whole aspect of deployment, the professionalism, the fact that he came from a background in Palmdale where most people just don’t end up succeeding in life – don’t go to college, don’t do much with their lives - and he comes back successful, 21, new car, professional.

“I’m like ‘The Army gave you that?’ he’s like ‘Yeah.’ I thought it was amazing.

“At first I just wanted to work out with them. Workouts were intense because I wasn’t accustomed to waking up so early, the intensity. Then I adapted and I just like the challenge of it because I’m a person that likes to get challenged. If I see no challenge in something I just don’t find it interesting. That’s what drives me - challenge. And that’s what the Army offered.”

“I took the initiative. I walked into that office over the summer during orientation and told them: ‘this is what I have to offer, this is my GPA, these are my intentions - I’m not sure if I want to do Army but I want to try it out.’

“My parents came from a very very impoverished background – my dad didn’t have shoes until he was like 13. And he came to own two homes and brand new cars every four or five years. If I wanted something and it was within a reasonable price I would have it. And I thought to myself ‘If my dad could do that, imagine what I can do at this stepping stool you know? I just always had this ambition like I don’t know where this ambition comes from to this day. I just know I had that ambition that I’m going to be somebody high up there.

“I definitely want to reach captain, get my masters, at that point it’s all depending upon whether I love the Army as much as I thought I would because it’s one thing being in ROTC and a whole ‘nother thing being in the Army. It’s contingent upon that. I know that within those ten years I want to come out, have commanded a company, have my masters and end up working for a big [accounting] firm.”

You know, I want to be a high speed commander and I want to be a partner. I want to say I did that and I can do that.”

Sean T. Di Ciolli.


Both of my parents’ families were in the service. Never as careers, but just four year enlistments during WWII and Vietnam, which is kind of what I did.

I attended Ventura College for about two years and then enlisted in the reserves. I received my UCSB acceptance letter while in basic training, which was pretty cool. The drill instructor asked if I was a reservist and rolled his eyes when I answered yes. This made me laugh on the inside (being a reservists is looked down upon by some). Upon completion of training, I served two tours of Iraq and after, came back to UCSB for about a year and a half, to then be mobilized to Afghanistan immediately after graduation.

I’ve always thought everyone has a purpose. You’re here to make the world a better place, and when you’re young and in your twenties, it’s good to have a cause. For me, the military was always about being a part of something bigger than myself.I believe in giving peoples’ the ability to be free and the benefit their freedom attributes to our national security/interest.

However, the timing of my enlisting had more to do with external factors. The Battle of Fallujah occurred in the fall of 2004 and that’s when I knew I had to make myself available in the reserves, so I could deploy as needed. I saw a picture in the newspaper of a Marine pulling himself out of an armored vehicle with his sleeve on fire. This got me thinking “Why am I better than this guy? He’s doing his part.” That’s what propelled me to go into the Marines sooner rather than later. I would have done it anyways – I just might have gotten the degree first.

The major drawback I didn’t expect coming back to school after Iraq was not being able to focus as much as I used to. While on active duty, you are encouraged not to think too much since you are supposed to concentrate on the present task at hand. I found it hard to reignite the analytical thought process and not just take things at face value.

Rallying for a cause that you believe in is important. Give your early twenties to public service, or whatever it is. A few years is nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are other opportunities besides the military you can partake in, such as, Peace Corps, volunteering in the community, or anything so you can look back and say, “I did that, I helped, I did my part and I am proud of that.” That’s what’s so important to me. Even when at times it felt like my teeth were getting kicked in, and the delays it caused in earning my degree and starting my career, I look back and am happy everything worked out with my safe return and my emerging career. It didn’t always go as I planned, but I wouldn’t ask for anything to be different; I’m glad I did what I did.

Sean T. Di Ciolli and Kathy Chinchilla have worked as finance interns for the UCSB Alumni Association.

Interviews with Nick Smith, Coastlines editor.

Discover more about UC Santa Barbara's ROTC program, at the UCSB Current.