By: Caitlin Nolan
A common occurrence at Marist College is the late night drive to Dunkin’ Donuts to fuel up with coffee and other necessities before beginning the work so many procrastinate. Getting into Cassandra Gilday’s station wagon is an experience in and of itself. The car is full of character and full of belongings. In fact, if one was to just look down on the passenger side’s floor, one black high heel and an olive green canteen can be found. That’s because Cadet Gilday is the first female member of the Marist College ROTC.
Gilday is like any other girl. She loves hazelnut coffee, light and sweet, is a member of the Marist College Equestrian team, and is excited to see her
boyfriend, David, of a year for the first time in eight months.
“It was David’s second deployment; I haven’t seen him in eight months,” Gilday said. “His first deployment was to Iraq, and his infantry unit went through some pretty tough times. During this one he was on a boat and he was the force ready to act. At one point he was in Somalia deterring pirates.”
This is the reality of Gilday’s life. While maintaining a course load of that of a biomedical science major, working eighteen hours at the Information Technology Help Desk, and participating in extracurricular activities, Gilday is working towards completing the Army ROTC program at Marist College. Her schedule is not that of a typical college female.
Gilday’s typical morning routine consists of waking at 5:15 a.m. for a 6 a.m. personal training session, opening the Help Desk at 7:30 a.m. and attending organic chemistry, art history, and animal behavior. It is through such an intense regimen Gilday will be able to achieve her goal of becoming an Army Veterinarian. When she graduates Marist College, Gilday will be considered a second lieutenant.
“They do food inspections, take care of military dogs, civilian animals on bases; they’re also the biggest in research and development out there,” Gilday said of the duties of an Army Veterinarian. “They have some of the biggest research [in regards of] breast cancer and looking for new medicines. They’ll go to Africa and start vaccinating cows so they produce better milk and meat and [the people consuming such products] will live a longer time, have more babies.”
Military life is in Gilday’s blood, coming from a line of military men. Her grandfather, father, and uncle have served in the military and currently, Gilday can count two members of her family as enlisted.
“I’ve always wanted to [be part of the military] since I was in middle school,” Gilday said with a shrug. “I thought it was cool. My dad was in the army and so were my uncle and my grandfather. My cousin is in the Marine Core and my godfather’s son is also in the Marine Core.”
The Army ROTC at Marist College is comprised of approximately twenty males and three females, Gilday included among them. The remaining two joined this year and have had a transition period made simpler by the experience Gilday had.
On her experience when first joining the ROTC, Gilday recalls with a laugh that it was “awful. I was the only female at Marist and I kind of had to pave the way for the females who followed me. It was pretty difficult because the guys don’t realize that ‘maybe she can’t do that exercise’ so they treat you just as hard as a fully in- shape male which is absurd.’
Despite the trials and tribulations the first few months in the new environment held, Gilday managed. In fact, this year she began work at the Marist College Help Desk, only adding to her workload. Danny Jagoda, a Marist College sophomore and supervisor at the Help Desk, was able to elaborate on how well Gilday has been able to manage her many faceted life.
“This is her first semester [working at the Help Desk],” Jagoda said. “She told me she was interested and gave me her resume and I passed it along to my boss, Kristen Lake. She had experience in customer service and in dealing with people.
There was one time where she had to go to a PT test and she also had to open the Help Desk at 7:30 a.m. but they were running behind schedule with her test so she had to juggle it out to get to work on time so she could open the Help Desk on time, which she was able to do.”
At the end of the journey to Dunkin’ Donuts, Gilday was finally able to locate that second heel. While it may have been on the other end of her car, she seemed to know exactly where to look. It is that sort of organized chaos Gilday thrives on and has seemed to serve her well.
“The whole world is very different in the military,” Gilday said. “Very structured and very strict and if you don’t do well you get smoked- you’re driven to excel. In the army, to get what you want from the military you have to be the best of the best. You have to be top notch to do anything- to go to school, to get the job you want; you have to be the best.”