An Army of One

  • Maj. Mary Bernheim (right) swears in her daughter Lt. Heather Bernheim '09 (left).  
  • Bert Bernheim (left) and David Bernheim (right) pin lieutenant's bars on Heather Bernheim '09.

Heather Bernheim ’09 exemplifies the U.S. Army motto.

She truly is an “Army of One.”

During her four years at Franklin & Marshall College, she has done double duty, studying here and training in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at Millersville University.

On Saturday, May 2, Bernheim was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.

The ROTC is an officer-commissioning program for college students that focuses on leadership development and military training.

Franklin & Marshall College offered Air Force ROTC from 1951 to 1967. Beginning in 1981, the College has offered ROTC training in coordination with Millersville University. Ben Madonia ’06 was the last F&M graduate to participate in the ROTC program.

“It teaches you to lead,” Bernheim said. “And it teaches you time management and believe me, that comes in handy.”

In addition to a full academic schedule, three times a week Bernheim joined her fellow cadets at 6:30 a.m. in Millersville for physical training. On Thursday afternoons, she attended leadership-training classes. Two weekends a semester, she participated in more training at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, Pa.

“As a junior you are in leadership, and by the time you are a senior you are leading the program,” she said. Bernheim serves as the cadet battalion commander of her ROTC unit, the Marauder Detachment, reporting directly to the commandant of the program.

“ROTC can break you down and build you back as a stronger leader and as a stronger individual,” she said.

Bernheim will graduate a Distinguished Military Graduate, an award earned by the top 20 percent of the nation’s cadets. Her current ranking on the National Order of Merit List is 107th of more than 5,600 ROTC cadets nationwide, placing her in the top 2 percent.

It is what you would expect from a Bernheim.

“You could say military service is a family tradition,” Bernheim said.

Her mother, Mary, is a major in the Air Force and her father, David, was an Army Ranger. Bernheim’s grandfather, Bert, was a combat engineer in the European theater during World War II.

Bernheim’s idol, her grandmother Aline, was the youngest person ever to be admitted to the Tennessee bar. During the war, she served as a JAG officer under General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David Bernheim had wanted his daughter to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, but from the moment she toured Franklin & Marshall, she said she had a different plan.

“I wasn’t interested in the academy experience. I wanted to go to F&M. I fell in love with this place and I enjoyed my four years here,” Bernheim said.

During the commissioning ceremony on May 2, Maj. Bernheim administered the officer’s oath to her daughter, and her father and grandfather pinned on her lieutenant’s bars.

Bernheim added that she is looking forward to walking in uniform at Commencement and having the opportunity to salute former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell.

After graduation, Bernheim will report for duty to Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., for a seven-week officer leadership course. After that, she’ll report to Fort Huachuca in Cochise County, Ariz., for military intelligence training. She will be stationed at Fort Carson, near Colorado Spring, Colo.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to serve my country and grateful for the education I received at F&M,” she said.

Another F&M student, Jonathon Chu ’11, is participating in the ROTC program, and is waiting to receive word this summer if he will be officially enrolled in the program. Any student can participate in ROTC training for two years, but he or she must receive medical acceptance to continue toward commissioning.

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