Ashley Hayes has an exciting future mapped out. In two years, she will walk across the stage to accept her diploma showing she has earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. The day before, she will have received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
“I want to serve the United States as an active duty officer in the Medical Services or Military Intelligence branch,” she says. “The inspiring individuals I have met during my time in the ETSU ROTC program have made me realize I want to make my military experience a lifelong career.
“Later,” Hayes adds, “I would like to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in forensic anthropology or skeletal biology and then serve my country as an employee of the joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.”
Currently, Hayes holds the position of commander of the ETSU Pershing Rifles Drill Team. “Our team is only three years old,” she says, “but we have first- and second-place awards at the national convention. I am also the National Society’s G-4 Logistics Officer.”
Hayes also participates in ROTC’s Eddie Reed Ranger Challenge Team, named for Capt. Eddie Reed, an ETSU ROTC graduate who died during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. “We compete in some of the most physically demanding competitions and races,” she notes, “including the annual Mountain Man Memorial March in Gatlinburg.”
She is also a member of the Joe Callahan Running Club, and says, “We run in some of the most incredible races imaginable, including the Army 10 Miler. We run 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers and half-marathons.
In the coming year, Hayes will work with the Best Mentoring organization. She explains, “I want to help mentor individuals to gain the motivation it takes to get through college and help them succeed. I want to make a difference within someone’s life.”
Perhaps her greatest enjoyment, and biggest challenge, came this past summer, when Hayes went to Mozambique through the Army ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program. “I have never had such an extraordinary outlook at other cultures, languages, ethics and leadership,” she says, “and that’s coming from an anthropology major!”
During a stay of several weeks, Hayes had opportunities to learn about the Mozambique military and participate in humanitarian projects at an orphanage and among farmers and fishermen. She also visited a safari park in South Africa and tried kayaking above large, spiny sea urchins in the Indian Ocean.
“We went to the Iris Ministries in Maputo,” Hayes says. “When we visited the toddlers
and small children, a couple of little girls wanted to play with my hair. More and
more came up to me to touch my hair, and suddenly I was tackled by eight or more children,
just hugging me and craving attention. We ate lunch with the children and played soccer
and put puzzles together. The children didn’t want us to leave, which broke my heart.”