Master’s Candidate Charts Future Path in St. John’s ROTC Program

Born in the small community of St. Ann Parish in Jamaica, Brittany emigrated in 2013 to the United States with her family. Settling in Freeport, NY, she enlisted in the Army soon after her arrival. She became a citizen in 2020, the same year she completed her undergraduate studies at what is now the global division of the University of Arizona.

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“My personal philosophy is to strive for excellence, help others, and be happy,” the 29-year-old cadet said. “As an active-duty soldier, I’m here to be that person to teach, help, and motivate others—but I can learn from them as they learn from me.”

Brittany Smith
  • Health Care Systems, Master of Science in Healthcare Systems
  • College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Unlike many of her ROTC colleagues at St. John’s University, Brittany Smith knows what to expect from a career in the military.

Having completed six years of active duty already, she enrolled in the University’s military development program to advance her standing in the US Army. When she earns her master of science degree in Health Care Systems in May 2024, she will be promoted from staff sergeant, her current rank, to second lieutenant.

Then it will be off to assignment at a post to be determined. Wherever she is sent, however, Brittany will go with a smile. That is just how she does things.

“My personal philosophy is to strive for excellence, help others, and be happy,” the 29-year-old cadet said. “As an active-duty soldier, I’m here to be that person to teach, help, and motivate others—but I can learn from them as they learn from me.”

Born in the small community of St. Ann Parish in Jamaica, Brittany emigrated in 2013 to the United States with her family. Settling in Freeport, NY, she enlisted in the Army soon after her arrival. She became a citizen in 2020, the same year she completed her undergraduate studies at what is now the global division of the University of Arizona.

Online learning was a challenge, but if there is one thing her military training taught her, it is the value of time management. Enrolled as an undergraduate while assigned to Fort Leavenworth, KS, Brittany, an engineer trainee, drew electrical system schematics full time while completing an internship in aviation logistics.

That dizzying pace has continued at St. John’s, where she has spent the last two years as a graduate student while helping to lead the Red Storm ROTC battalion and completing an internship at Kāmin Health Urgent Care near the Queens, NY, campus. Commuting from Central Islip, NY, she arrives at the University before 5:30 a.m., often leaving 12 hours later.

“It’s all about managing your time,” Brittany said. “It’s about sacrifice and dedication. There are some long days here, but I love it.” 

As the battalion’s Cadet Command Sergeant Major, Brittany is second in command to Battalion Commander Ashley Arnone, and is responsible for the welfare and individual training of the younger cadets. Ashley, eight years Brittany’s junior, said her colleague is essential to the efficient operation of the unit.

“Brittany has that experience to know what goes on in a unit,” Ashley said. “It’s important stuff. She understands other students’ circumstances and we rely on her a lot.”

Lt. Col. William E. Brown, Department Chair and Professor of Military Science, agreed. “Brittany’s experience as an enlisted member of the military adds to her credentials as a leader and inspires others in the battalion, who recognize her commitment to the Army,” he said. “She brings a sage wisdom to her peers about what the Army is and what it means to be a leader. She executes her job with great skill.”

Officer training has opened doors for Brittany that now include the possibility of a career as a physician assistant through the military’s Interservice Physician Assistant Program. Pivoting away from engineering to health care services, she plans to make the Army her full-time career, continuing until she has at least 20 years of service. The Army will honor her six years as an enlisted member.

“The Army is the biggest branch of the military,” Brittany explained. “It has more to offer by way of job selection. I want to do something in the medical field, and if I get to be a physician assistant it will eventually be an easy transition to civilian life.”