Rollie Graham ’14 to become 2nd Lieutenant in United States Marine Corps
August 15, 2013 By Cindy Long
view during a study abroad trip in Shanghai, China.
After his graduation from Officers Candidate School, Graham
posed in front of the Kentucky State flag.
Rollie Graham ’14 is like many other outstanding and involved Centre students: he spent a semester studying abroad in Shanghai, China; he is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and vice president of administration on the College's Interfraternity Council; he played baseball for the Colonels his freshman year. But when he finishes up his degree in international studies next May, he will begin a rare career for a Centre grad—as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
While Centre offers ROTC programs for the U.S. Army and Air Force through the University of Kentucky, a commission in the USMC is unique and a goal that Graham pursued on his own.
"During my freshman year, I contacted the Marine Corps officer selection officer in Lexington," Graham says. "It took me the whole semester to complete the application for the Platoon Leaders Course."
A commission in the USMC requires rigorous training, screening and evaluation at Officer Candidates School (OCS) in Quantico, Va. Nationally, the attrition rate is 25 to 30 percent.
"The summer of 2011, I left for my first six-week increment of OCS training," Graham continues. After graduation, I returned to Centre for my sophomore and junior years. In July, I graduated my second six-week increment of OCS and earned the title of United States Marine. Now I am awaiting my commission, which will happen after I finish up classes in May 2014."
Graham's cousin was an artillery forward observer for the 101st Airborne and his childhood hero. After his cousin's death in 2005, Graham knew he wanted to serve in the military. While still in high school, he decided to enlist in the Navy, but listened to some advice from his dad.
"My father, Monty Graham ’86, prodded me to spend at least one year at Centre, play baseball, and give college life a try before following my initial intended track," Graham remembers. "I agreed, reluctantly at first, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life, and I thank my father to this day for understanding my best interest.
"Around mid-October of my freshman year, I found the U.S. Marines' website for officers. I became enamored by the men and women who lead our country's finest warriors into 'any clime and place where we could take a gun' (a line from "the Marines Hymn"). I wanted to become a Marine Officer because they pride themselves as not only being trained in the severest of schools but also possessing the superior moral values and decision-making skills it takes to direct a unit in the harshest environments."
When the time comes for Graham to select a mission occupation specialty (MOS), he hopes to become a ground intelligence officer, a position charged with conducting reconnaissance to gather information about an enemy. These spots are extremely competitive, so his other choices include infantry officer and combat engineer officer. But until then, he continues to be a stand-out Centre student.
"Rollie is a front-row, top-notch, go-to student in the classroom," says Robert Bosco, assistant professor of international studies. "[He is] well liked by peers and professors alike, a kind, upbeat, positive force on campus, day in and day out."
"Rollie is an intellectually curious person who has a thirst for learning," says Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Associate Professor of International Studies. "He is willing to confront new and difficult material in the classroom, actually relishes it (!), and is a very engaged student."
Graham, an avid outdoorsman and climber, feels confident that he can stay in shape his senior year to face the rigors of the Marine Corps.
"I've been physically conditioning my body for the past three years for military training, so I know what it takes to stay in shape," he says. "I hold a 300 on the Marine Corps' Physical Fitness Test (PFT), which is a perfect score. To better prepare myself for The Basic School, I plan to study the entire curriculum beforehand.
"Climbing instills the virtues of confidence and accountability for one's self, team members, and gear, which are integral characteristics of every Marine," he says. "Also, the outdoors requires confidence in one's wilderness skills such as orienteering, survival and improvisation."
Centre College, founded in 1819, offers its students a world of opportunities, highlighted by the nation's premier study abroad program and a faculty ranked #5 in the nation for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" at a liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report. Centre graduates enjoy extraordinary success, with entrance to top graduate and professional schools, prestigious fellowships for further study abroad (Rhodes, Rotary, Fulbright), and rewarding jobs (on average, 97 percent are employed or in advanced study within 10 months of graduation).