McCaw salutes 8-year service commitment
When sophomore television and broadcast journalism major Cat McCaw opens her closet before class, she glances at bright sorority shirts, high heels and school clothes. She carefully nudges her military uniform to the side.
McCaw signed an Army contract in 2011 that bound her to eight years of military service after graduating college. Because both of her parents served in the Air Force during Sept. 11, McCaw said she is inspired by a sense of duty to both her military-driven family and her nation. Because both of her parents served in the Air Force before she was born and were pilots when 9/11 occurred, McCaw said she is inspired to serve knowing that her parents were more vulnerable.The U.S. Army offered McCaw a full-ride scholarship to Chapman as part of the binding agreement.
McCaw trains three days a week at California State University, Fullerton in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) classes at 9 a.m. to prepare for the Army. She has physical training before her classes at 5:45 a.m., and occasionally has all-day field training until around 4 p.m.
“I watched my parents actually serve during 9/11. It made me eager to make sure nothing like that would ever happen again,” she said.
McCaw is part of MSII, a second year cadet training program, which emphasizes leadership and field skills for advanced members of the military.
“People who enlist right away are 100 percent in, but I’m in an extended state of training,” she said.
To become an officer, Cat needs a bachelor’s degree, so she was required to attend a four-year college before entering the Army.
McCaw said she went through a competitive process for acceptance into her ROTC program.
“The application process was like a college application to the extreme,” she said. “It had essays, a physical test involving a mile run and a bunch of pushups and sit-ups and an interview.”
Chris Yu, a platoon leader at Fullerton, said McCaw excelled quickly in the demanding position.
“This year has been different than previous years because when a big incoming class of cadets comes through, there aren’t enough MSIIIs [junior-level] to lead,” he said. “I had asked Cat to step up into a position she didn’t have as much experience in, but she took it head on.”
After four generations of Air Force members, McCaw was the first in her family to join the Army.
“My dad would tell me about how he flew wounded soldiers from places like Germany or Kuwait, making me excited to fly one day,” she said. “But the Army was more accommodating and more welcoming.”
She said her parents were hesitant at first about her choice to join the Army, but they eventually supported her. McCaw still has a pilot’s license and flies leisurely.
“The day I got my acceptance letter I changed the Air Force sticker on my car to an Army one,” McCaw said. “Now they realize how happy I am with my decision.”
McCaw said she still tries to maintain a normal college routine by participating in the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
Dodge College of Film and Media Arts attracted McCaw to Chapman. Associate Professor and Director of Television Studies James Gardner took McCaw on a trip to Korea as an assistant director during interterm in 2011 and said her major will come in handy even if she can’t use it for eight years.
“Cat is like a sponge that wants to soak everything in,” Gardner said. “Even if she doesn’t use her degree right away, the leadership and management skills she learns here will be helpful in the Army.”
Gardner first noticed McCaw’s passion when he presented a 9/11 documentary in his class.
“When Cat was watching, you could really see the emotional effect the event,” Gardner said. “She looked intrigued and moved by it all just by how focused she was on the video.”
McCaw’s sorority sister Annie Green, a junior advertising and public relations major, said she has a good support system at Chapman.
“I think Cat has a lot of determination and strength to do what she’s doing,” Green said. “All her friends support her.”
[For the record, 9:53 p.m. Sept. 20: An earlier version of this post reported that Cat McCaw was a film production major, that both her parents served in the Air Force during 9/11 and MSII [junior-level] instead of MSIII. Also, due to a reporting error, McCaw was misquoted in saying officers coming out of the program are like leaders of the enlisted. Additionally, what attracted McCaw to Chapman was Dodge College of Film and Art, not the film production program, and James Gardner is the Director of Television Studies.]