Nicholas J. VanSlyke, a cadet in St. John’s Red Storm Battalion of the US Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), takes the service component of St. John’s University’s Vincentian mission to heart—he has dedicated his college years to preparing to serve our country in the US Army.
His efforts were recently recognized by the ROTC as he was ranked seventh in the nation on the 2018 Order of Merit list, out of a talent pool of 5,500 cadets who are commissioning in 2019. He is one of six Cadets in St. John’s ROTC program selected as a Distinguished Military Graduate, a distinction that is earned by the top 20 percent of cadets on the national Order of Merit list.
“The cadre and cadets of St. John's ROTC are proud of Cadet VanSlyke's accomplishment,” said Eric P. Fekete, Lieutenant Colonel, Professor of Military Science, St. John’s University Army ROTC. “This accomplishment is a testament to his dedication to his academics, the ROTC program, and his fellow cadets. It has been a privilege to observe him mature and grow over the last year that I have been with the program. I believe he has a bright future ahead of him and look forward to the contributions he will make while serving in the Army.”
Nicholas, along with St. John’s students Jacob Dibble and Jordin Morin, are in the top 10 percent, and Maria de los Angeles Asencio Vargas, Marissa Fenn, and Tyshay Mcphatter are in the top 20 percent. St. John’s has 13 cadets commissioning this spring.
A Criminal Justice major in the College of Professional Studies with a minor in Military Leadership, he was also ranked first overall in a platoon of 40 cadets at Cadet Summer Training. His growing list of achievements also includes recipient of the Military Order of the World Wars Gold Award and the National Defense Transportation Association Award.
“I am proud to go to St. John’s, extremely eager to serve this country, and have enjoyed my experience here,” said Nicholas, who is originally from Shelton, CT.
“This school has given me opportunities I did not think imaginable four years ago. I will forever be indebted to this institution and ROTC.”
Nicholas is scheduled to graduate in May and commission as an Active Duty Infantry Officer. In June, he will relocate to Fort Benning, GA, to attend the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course, a 19-week program designed to train and develop Infantry Lieutenants. From there, he will attend Ranger School, the Army’s premier leadership school.
“After completion, I will be shipped to a duty station where I will proudly serve my obligation,” he explains. “The location of my duty station has yet to be decided by the Army.”
While his path now seems very clear, this was not always the case. The summer after high school graduation was a particularly challenging time for him personally. “I was disappointed in who I was as a person,” he recently reflected. “I knew there was an unfulfilled potential within me that I had not been exploiting.”
Just days before he was set to move into the University’s Residence Village as a freshman, he received a telephone call from a friend who had served in Afghanistan, describing the varied opportunities he had been offered through his military service. “I decided that ROTC was the best way to have a military lifestyle mixed with a college experience,” he said. “It has honestly been the best decision I have made in my entire life.”
He enrolled in the Red Storm Battalion, where he now serves as Cadet Battalion Commander. “As cadets, we have a challenging, yet fulfilling, workload that requires us to take a hard look within ourselves.”
Nicholas notes that his self-discipline, initiative, and resiliency have all been strengthened through his participation in the ROTC program, and his refusal to be complacent has become steadfast. “These qualities have helped me excel at what my program requires of me. Overall, my classmates and I know the early wake-ups and late nights are all for a purpose much larger than ourselves: we understand that one day, we are going to be directly responsible for soldiers’ lives, which is an awesome responsibility for a 23-year-old adult.”
Nicholas is also a member of the President’s Society, the University’s highest honor society, and a member of the College of Professional Studies Honor Society. He has also served as an executive board member of Pi Kappa Phi, and treasurer of We Are One 365, Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of the sacrifices made by military service members and their families.
“ROTC is one of, if not the, best-kept secrets at this University,” he stressed. “ROTC could potentially pay for your tuition, housing, and pay you a monthly stipend. Not to mention, the Army will give you a career the day you graduate, while providing free opportunities for travel.” Two summers ago, Nicholas had the opportunity to visit Bulgaria.
The tangible benefits of ROTC aside, it is the personal fulfillment he has gained through this program that he values most. “It truly brings out the best version of yourself when it comes to motivation, positivity, leadership, and compassion,” he said. “This program gives you the ability to directly impact someone’s life as a mentor and role model. If you feel like you are not getting enough out of your college experience, give it a try.”
For more information, on St. John’s University’s ROTC program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, click here.