The Road Less Traveled


The U.S. Army Reserve is composed of 80 percent enlisted Soldiers and 20 percent Officers but few experience both sides. Currently, two Army Reserve Soldiers from 3/304th Regiment (USMA), 104th training division (LT) are taking on the challenge of transitioning from an enlisted Soldier to an Officer.

PFC Patrick Johnson, a trainer from the 3/304th Regiment (USMA), 104th Training Division (LT), Saco, Maine, is also a Cadet at the University of Maine.

“Seeing the enlisted side is important because the officer side and enlisted side are two houses that work together to get their mission done,” said Johnson. “I feel like a lot of Cadets don’t pick up on the opportunity to see what life on the enlisted side is.”

Johnson took off a few semesters of school to join the Army Reserve a little over a year ago.  After finishing basic training and his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to become a human resource specialist, he enrolled in Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine.

ROTC programs generally consist of military science courses in addition to the traditional college undergrad classes, which allow Cadets to expand their leadership skills as they seek a commission to become an Officer in the Armed Forces.

This summer, as part of his commitment to the Army Reserve, Johnson is at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, training new Cadets on Army weaponry.

A diverse trainer,  Johnson has conducted lane safety on the AT4 Rocket Launcher range, provided instruction on how to fire the AT4, and spent 10 days on the buddy lane fire range aiding Cadets in conducting squad movements.

“I was on live fire exercise range for ten days,” Johnson said. “It helped me to learn more about squad movements, which will help me to teach my Cadets back at Black Bear Battalion (University of Maine) better and it also will help me when I go to my leadership camp to be evaluated as a leader.”

Sgt. Amy Donahue will also become an officer in the near future, but unlike Johnson, she will follow the state Officer Candidate School path with the National Guard. With this program, she will transfer to the 399th Medical Detachment and complete officer training once a month for the next 16 to 18 months. At the end of her training, she will attend a two-week course to culminate her schooling and receive her commission. 

On her “green to gold” road, Donahue received a letter of recommendation from a colonel and interviewed for a candidate position at the unit she wanted become a part of.

Although Donahue has a Bachelor’s degree in adult education and training, she is currently working on her Master’s degree and working as a tomography technologist, an medical-imaging specialist who runs the equipment necessary to obtain images of clients needed by medical professionals providing care.

With her civilian job in medical but her education in training, Donahue wanted to expand her military viewpoint.

“That’s why I (initially) joined this unit (3/304th Regiment) I left the medical company because I wanted to get a different Army experience,” Donahue said.  

Although Donahue has enjoyed the two years she spent training Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, her choice to return as an Officer to the medical field and tie her two fields of expertise together became clear in a conversation with her current commander.

“I decided to go with Officer Candidate School (OCS),” said Donahue. “I like to plan training I’ve already trained enough and done the non-commissioned Officer role. I like to design and plan training that can be more effective and better train soldiers.”

Not only did her commander aid in her decision, she also gave Donahue a lot of inside information on what to expect during her training, leading to the realization that although Donahue believes OCS is the right path for her, it will not be an easy road. 

“I think both ways (ROTC vs OCS) have their strengths and weaknesses to be had on both sides,” said Donahue. “I know some Officers that go Green to Gold that sometimes have a hard time not stepping on their non-commissioned Officer’s toes or senior leaders toes because they want to train Soldiers or on make on-spot corrections but that’s not your role anymore and that can hurt the situation.”

Deciding to change paths doesn’t mean Donahue regrets her decision to start her career on the enlisted side.

“The experience you have from starting from the bottom, being a non-commissioned Officer and junior enlisted is super valuable,” said Donahue.

Although Johnson and Donahue are taking different roads to their commission, both say they will use their time as enlisted to help them understand the Soldiers they will lead in the future, and they look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.


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