A Beverly native and graduate of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS), Keely Reardon is now a senior at Villanova University graduating in May 2022 with a degree in Nursing.
During her time at Villanova she has been involved in intramural sports like volleyball and softball. She is also a member of the Western Equestrian team. Keely tells us that she first found her love for horse riding in high school after forming a close relationship with the animal science teacher who introduced her to the horses they had at CHSAS. Keely would ride horses every morning, and she even formed a close bond with one of them. The name of her favorite horse was Diva, which Keely said was ironic because Diva’s personality was that of a total diva. Keely describes Diva as very well trained but shy and selective when it came to interacting with people. Keely worked with Diva every morning until she warmed up to her, and eventually instead of Keely having to approach Diva, Diva would come up to Keely in the mornings to greet her.
Although horse riding is an important part of Keely’s life, these days, most of her time is taken up by her nursing course load and Reserves Officers Training Courses, also known as ROTC. Keely has been a member of Villanova’s ROTC program since freshman year, and has been slowly moving up through the ranks there. Her role last semester was Company Commander where she would plan semester calendars, maintain accountability of the company, assist in teaching military science labs and classes, as well as grade leadership rotations from the underclassmen. Currently, Keely’s role is Assistant S3. As Assistant S3, her main project is putting together a field training exercise where all the cadets go to the army base Fort in IndianTown Gap. Keely tells us that this is training only for juniors in ROTC in which they stay two or three nights and do training at the army base. It includes day navigation, night navigation, and missions, all of which Keely has planned.
We asked Keely what type of missions usually happen during these training and she told us the best example was an ambush. In an ambush someone is chosen to be in charge of the mission as the platoon leader. The platoon leader is given a map, a compass, and it’s their responsibility to get the entire platoon there and then set up the ambush. Each mission lasts three to four hours and after an hour of planning, and the success of a mission is measured by maintaining proper accountability of the soldiers in the platoon and making logical decisions that can be explained upon review of the mission.
Keely shared with us that when she was a platoon leader it was on reconnaissance, also known as recon, or the military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features. Before the mission began, Keely had to go to the ORP, which is a big circle located out of sight, sound, and small-arms range of the objective area. It normally is located in the direction the platoon plans to move after completing its actions on the objective. There, she and her soldiers worked out the details of the mission. They spent about an hour planning security, who was going, how they were going to get there, and what they were going to do. After the planning stage, Keely picked everyone up and they walked closer to the objective. Once she got close enough to the objective where she no longer needed to hide in trees or crawl, she made sure the enemy would not hear or see her. Afterwards, Keely gathered her cadets all the while taking notes of the enemy like what they wore and what kind of weapons they had. Once the notes were finished, they went back to the ORP to share notes. Keely tells us that she was really nervous because she was younger than the other participants. Although these training are specifically for juniors, Keely went as a sophomore because she is a Nursing student. It is common for Nursing students to do their training earlier than usual because the Nursing course load is particularly rigorous in junior year.
Keely has always wanted to serve or be in the military in some way. A lot of her family have commissioned and gone to medical School through the Army. We asked her what her favorite part of ROTC is and she said it’s the friends that she’s made. The experiences that they have in ROTC bonds them together in a very unique way that she says is “unmatched.” For example, Keely recalls her first field training exercise in which she and other members were woken up at 4am in the freezing rain and they were hovering over hand warmers. Keely says although she is excited to commission post-graduation, she’ll be sad when ROTC comes to an end because the friends she’s made will be spread out across the country on their own paths.
Blending her ROTC schedule with her academic course load leads to very full days. When Keely has ROTC class and lab she wakes up at 6am and has physical training at 6:30 until 7:30. After physical therapy Keely has regular Nursing classes practically all day. At 3 pm she has to drive to the Army Lab in Westchester, PA where she typically plans meetings with cadets from other schools and takes her lab. After her lab which runs from 4pm-6pm, there’s an Army class that goes from 6pm-9pm. With a rigorous schedule like that, it seemed to be a no-brainer that time management is the most challenging part of ROTC for Keely. She says that her role as Assistant S3 requires a lot of logistical tasks and is like a part time job on top of a full school course load.
Keely had a few takeaways from her experience in ROTC that she wanted us to share with those who may be interested in ROTC in the future. Aside from being able to make some quality friends, she told us that “The Army gives you a ton of opportunities to grow and develop yourself.” There are opportunities to travel and more importantly, go for things that you may have never thought that you would do. For example, her time in Fort Hood, TX where she was an extern in the labor and delivery unit of their hospital.
With her undergraduate education coming to a close, Keely is preparing to commission. In fact, she just purchased her Army Dress Uniform. It happens to be very expensive with the price point set over $1000. Once Keely graduates she will be commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves. Because she’s a Nursing major and going to the reserves she could possibly be setting up hospitals in the field, taking patients, administering covid vaccines, or back in a staff role like her current role. Although she is uncertain where she will be stationed, Keely hopes to work in a hospital labor and delivery unit in the future.
Keely sounds very excited to commission and we at the Wentcher Foundation are excited for her and extremely proud to call her a Wentcher Scholar. We wish her the best of luck as she embarks on her new journey in the service!