Student leader David Jensen balances studies and ROTC service.
David Jensen. Photo by Antonio Zaragoza.
The piercing sounds of sirens and alarms triggered on Sept. 11 from the impact of the Boeing 757 and 767 jets that crashed into the World Trade Center on served as a warning for pedestrians and onlookers to vacate the area.
However, for many young people watching from their televisions at home, ingesting the sounds and images of that fateful day triggered a passion to serve their country wounded by the hands of terrorists.
San Diego State ROTC Cadet David Jensen was in the seventh grade enjoying breakfast at his grandmother’s house when she drew his attention to live news broadcasts of the 9/11 attacks.
“My reaction was like everyone else’s … just shock and horror at what was going on,” Jensen said. “It didn’t catch up to me right away, but over time it let me know there was more I can do for my country than what I’d hoped.”
Jensen, a San Diego native, drew further inspiration from the veterans in his family. His grandfather was a deep-sea diver in the Navy and his older brother fought in the Iraq War.
“After listening to (my brother) talk about how much he loved the Army, I wanted to follow the same path as him,” Jensen said. “He talked a lot about the challenge that it presented to someone who wanted to experience what it was like to be a leader.”
Fulfilling his dream
With his dream of service firmly entrenched in his spirit, Jensen enrolled in the ROTC program to launch his military career and enhance his leadership skills.
Along with his television, film and new media curriculum, Jensen enrolled in military science courses that prepare cadets with the skills needed to become successful military leaders. Cadets also travel to off-campus facilities to learn land navigation, water survival training and field training exercises.
Lt. Col. John Turner, SDSU professor of military science, says the military has a clear definition of the type of leaders the ROTC program wants to enable.
“We want leaders to inspire others; provide people with the sense of purpose, direction and motivation to help them accomplish the mission,” Turner said. “If you can do those three things, you’re going to be a successful leader.”
Dedication to service
ROTC cadets are also responsible for staying physically fit. Three days a week, cadets assemble at 6:30 a.m. to complete an hour-long physical training program. Their regiment includes running, sprints and basic exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, burpees and jumping jacks.
Jensen believes this factor of training is a pivotal aspect ofwhat the military does on a day- to-day basis.
“Regardless of what occupation you choose in the military, it’s important to maintain physical fitness. It shows that you’re ready to lead from the front,” Jensen said. “If something comes up, you’re ready to meet the challenge being fast rather than being slow and out of shape.”
Jensen is in the final year of the military science program. He is an MS4, which are responsible for implementing what they’ve learned from the program and leading cadets during training.
SDSU masters student in homeland security Cadet Christopher Mazzi witnessed Jensen putting his leadership training into practice with new cadets.
“He’s very knowledgeable in U.S. history and the Army. He’s also very personable. He can get connected to other cadets and they take him seriously,” Mazzi said.
After graduating this spring, Jensen will fulfill his initial four- year contract with the military. He plans on staying in the military for the 30-year career track serving as a public affairs officer and eventually working his way up to colonel.
Now that the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks arrived, Jensen reflects on the nation’s recovery since those dark hours and the principles he believes make America worth sacrificing his life for.
“We’re allowed to express ourselves the way we want to express ourselves. Not everybody here is the same. Those differences make us who we are,” Jensen said. “The idea that we can do that as free people makes this country a great country.”
This story originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.