Homeland Security Major Answers a Lifelong Calling to Serve

Born a month before the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Ashley Arnone has always known where life would take her—into the military and an eventual position in homeland security.

Ashley Arnone

“I never would have had that opportunity at a larger ROTC program,” Ashley said. “At a large program, there was a chance they wouldn’t even know who I was. To be one of four cadets to shadow a military intelligence unit, I’m just so grateful for that opportunity.”

Ashley Arnone '23
  • Homeland Security, Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security
  • The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies

Born a month before the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Ashley Arnone has always known where life would take her—into the military and an eventual position in homeland security. The St. John’s University senior took the first step toward that goal last summer when, as an ROTC cadet, she was attached to a military intelligence unit in Hawaii.

“I never would have had that opportunity at a larger ROTC program,” Ashley said. “At a large program, there was a chance they wouldn’t even know who I was. To be one of four cadets to shadow a military intelligence unit, I’m just so grateful for that opportunity.”

Recognizing the possibilities that existed at St. John’s, Ashley, a native of Staten Island, NY, chose the University over a number of schools with larger ROTC programs. She has since become Battalion Commander of the Red Storm battalion, responsible for leading the 80 cadets in the military development program.

Ashley, also a member of President’s Society, the highest honor bestowed on undergraduates, will graduate in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Homeland Security from The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. Following graduation, she will begin her military career as an active-duty second lieutenant in the US Army at a post to be determined.

Ashley’s father, a New York Police Department detective, was transferred to a precinct in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Ashley grew up curious about 9/11 and what might have been done to prevent it. A career in the military, she said, is her way of ensuring something so unprecedented never happens again.

“For some odd reason, I’ve always been interested in learning about 9/11; I was very drawn to it,” Ashley, 21, said. “There were so many red flags presented, but no one could have envisioned something like that. It made me want to pursue something in emergency management.”

Ashley made St. John’s her choice after visiting the Queens, NY, campus. A resident student for all four years, she recalled being awestruck by the Homeland Security laboratory in St. Augustine Hall and later having a conversation with a representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it.

“He said if there was ever another large emergency, agents from the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, VA, would come and use that facility,” Ashley recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, that is amazing.’ The lab was like nothing I had ever seen before.”

As Battalion Commander, or BC, Ashley manages the activities of all cadets assigned to the Red Storm battalion. She coordinates battalion training and is responsible for the welfare and morale of all cadets. Lt. Col. William Brown, Department Chair and Professor of Military Science, called Ashley indispensable to the smooth operation of the battalion.

 “She is a natural leader who seizes every opportunity to better herself and those around her,” Lt. Col. Brown said. “She has led the battalion through a fast-paced Fall semester.”

 Ashley’s initial years in the battalion were unsettled as the University pivoted to online learning during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. With access to essential buildings limited, cadets were responsible for their own physical training. They did calisthenics together via Zoom and shared videos of their required physical training done alone.

Classroom learning was also a challenge, Ashley said. At least for cadets like herself, who respond better to in-person instruction.

Of course, in that uncertainty was a lesson to be learned, Ashley said.

“Some days, it was challenging,” she admitted. “I find that I obtain and retain information better when someone is present speaking to me. But the key through it all was being able to adapt to whatever circumstances were presented to us.”