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From Graduation to Battlefield Training

Criminal Justice Student, Greek Member Earns Top ROTC Nomination

Article by Ralph Bartholdt, University Communications
Photos by Rio Spiering, University Visual Productions

In high school, Matt Angelo had dreams of continuing his family’s military history and jumping out of airplanes.

Instead of immediately enlisting in the military to chase that goal, he enrolled in college to attain it.

Angelo, a senior majoring in criminology with a minors in business and military science, joined University of Idaho with an Army ROTC scholarship which pays his tuition. After graduating in Spring ’24, he will travel to Fort Sill Oklahoma as a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant for a five-month training program to learn his new job as a field artillery officer. He’ll spend the next five years leading a field artillery unit whose purpose is to use cannons, rockets and missiles to neutralize enemy forces and add fire support to a battlefield.

“I will be employed as soon as I leave U of I,” Angelo said. “Being guaranteed a job right out of college is one of the things that drew me to University of Idaho’s ROTC program.”

At first, though, there were hurdles. 

The biggest one: Angelo questioned his decision.

“When he first came to see me, he was timid, he seemed overwhelmed, but he was earnest,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Warren, the commander of U of I’s Chrisman Battalion. If Angelo appears enthusiastically squared away today, he said stepping on campus and being introduced to camouflage troops in the basement of Memorial Gym four years ago gave him the jitters.

“I wasn’t sure if this was right for me,” he said. “I wondered if I had made a wrong decision.” Like many college freshman who donned jerseys on high school sports teams, Angelo longed for the competition and camaraderie he enjoyed on the Lake City Timberwolf football and track teams. He considered joining the military outright, but his dad recommended ROTC, a program that most high schoolers aren’t aware of. ROTC provides training, alongside a college education, to prepare students to become military officers without attending a military academy.

“I stuck it out the first semester, but it was tough,” he said.

Then something happened.

It’s not every day that you get paid to jump out of airplanes while you’re in college. Matt Angelo, ROTC cadet

As a cadet, he learned that competition and camaraderie are alive and well in the Chrisman Battalion.

“In ROTC we have to wake up early for physical training and get after the day,” he said. “I started making friends with other cadets who also had this new experience, and we were required to keep up our grades.”

He began to acclimate, and then he excelled.

“It set me up for success,” he said. “ROTC gave me an additional purpose, and it kept me on track.”

Last month, Angelo traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Based on his scholarship, leadership, physical fitness and involvement in extracurricular programs, Angelo placed among the top 20% of cadets in the nation. In Kentucky, he attended the U.S. Army Cadet Command George C. Marshall Awards and Leadership Seminar, where the nation’s outstanding cadets take part in lectures and round table discussions with Army and defense experts on critical defense and geopolitical matters.

He was sent to Airborne School two years ago, where he made five parachute jumps and earned the Army’s coveted parachutist badge.

Short-haired man wearing military cammies smiles.
Matt Angelo, a criminology and business major from Coeur d’Alene, jumped out of airplanes as an Army ROTC cadet and is preparing for a stint as a field artillery officer after graduation.

“It was really cool,” he said. “It’s not every day that you get paid to jump out of airplanes while you’re in college.”

As part of his minor, he earned an Excel certification through the College of Business and Economics. He plans to use the training to bolster his business acumen after the military. At U of I he also joined the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity where he put to practice the leadership skills he acquired as a cadet, as the house’s risk manager and its intramural chair.

“It’s super beneficial to use those leadership skills in a practical setting,” he said.

When he earns the distinction of field artillery officer he could be stationed in one of three places, including Alaska, North Carolina or Italy, he said.

After four years at U of I, Angelo’s high school goal has been refined. But only a little.

“I wanted to jump out of planes and use cannons to control the battlefield,” he said. “That’s really what I want to do, and I am glad I am getting the opportunity to do it.”


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