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From Soccer to Service Overseas

Lindley Award Winner Forgoes NCAA Athletics for Military Career

When Milana Lenae DesRosier first stepped onto the University of Idaho campus as a soccer recruit from Tucson, Arizona, she had dreams of playing at an NCAA Division I school. But a conversation with her uncle, who had served in both the military enlisted and officer ranks, changed the course of her journey.

Inspired by his words about the unique experiences and opportunities offered by Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), DesRosier made a pivotal decision to prioritize service to her country over her love for soccer.

This spring, as she prepared to be commissioned as a military intelligence officer, DesRosier was awarded the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences’ Lindley Award for her exceptional scholarship and character.

There is a really big difference between the opportunity to play NCAA Division I soccer versus following a career path to serve your country for potentially 20 years. Milana DesRosier, senior political science and international studies

The Lindley Award is presented each year to the top graduating senior in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), who is deemed the most outstanding in scholarship and character. This is the highest award a student in CLASS can receive.

“I am really honored to be chosen for the Lindley,” DesRosier said. “I will always be grateful to U of I for the opportunities I got here.”

When she arrived at U of I on a soccer scholarship, DesRosier was initially focused on pursuing her passion for sports and attending law school. But the seed her uncle planted ignited a zeal for service that would shape the trajectory of her college journey.

An Idaho patch on an Army ROTC uniform.
Milana DesRosier enrolled at U of I on a soccer scholarship and joined the Army ROTC program's Chrisman Battalion where she was also awarded scholarships including one for studying foreign languages, a precursor for a career as a military intelligence officer.

“It kind of hit me in the face,” DesRosier said, reflecting on her first encounters with ROTC. “But I enjoyed the atmosphere, community and the great opportunities it provided.”

Despite being new to the world of military training, DesRosier quickly found her footing in ROTC. Balancing her academic schedule with soccer training, she embraced the challenges. As scheduling conflicts between soccer and ROTC grew, however, DesRosier faced a difficult decision.

“There is a really big difference between the opportunity to play NCAA Division I soccer versus following a career path to serve your country for potentially 20 years,” she said.

Ultimately, she chose military service, permanently trading in her soccer cleats for combat boots.

Throughout her time at U of I, DesRosier – who will earn a double major in political science and international studies Spring ’24, and be commissioned as a second lieutenant – immersed herself in the complexities of global affairs. She fell in love with languages and cultures, recognizing their importance in understanding different world views and political systems.

“I highly value knowing what is going on in the world and how things work on a much broader scale,” DesRosier said. “I want to use my languages in the military and go to different schools to expand my skills.”

Her passion for languages led her to Project Go, a Department of Defense intensive language program in which she studied Russian through University of Pittsburgh during the summers of 2021 and 2022. She also studied Mandarin in high school and at U of I. Fluent in multiple languages, DesRosier’s proficiency has positioned her as an asset in the field of national security.

In 2023, DesRosier was one of six ROTC cadets in the U.S. to earn the Iris Burton Bulls Fellowship through Project Go. As the first cohort of fellows, DesRosier visited the Pentagon and the White House to talk with Department of Defense leaders about national security policy.

After earning a commission this month, DesRosier said she is eager to embark on a career dedicated to safeguarding national interests. With dreams of living in different countries and exploring new cultures, she is determined to use what she learned at U of I and with the Chrisman Battalion to meet political and military challenges at home and abroad.

Woman in Army green dress uniform stands in front of ROTC guidon.
When former Vandal soccer player Milana DesRosier learned about opportunities to learn foreign languages through ROTC while serving the country, she joined Chrisman Battalion and will graduate Spring ’24 with degrees in International Studies and Political Science.

Article by Christine Luten, Communications and Marketing Strategist.

Photos by Ralph Bartholdt, University Communications.

Published in May 2024.

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