Patrick Jason Macatlang is a medical service officer for the 2nd Battalion 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks Hawai‘i. “I oversee and directly supervise 18 medics in health, welfare, development, and overall readiness, and I’m the principal adviser to commanders at all levels in the area of field medical operations and evacuation,” he says.
A year ago, he was a recipient of the Howard S. and Yukiko Okada Scholarship, established by UH alumna Marian J. Okada, a retired U.S. government linguist, to honor her parents and to support students enrolled in the UH ROTC program. Okada’s father served on active duty in the Army for more than 30 years. The scholarship provides assistance for tuition, books, and other costs associated with attending the university.
Macatlang had been on active duty for five years when the army awarded him a Green to Gold scholarship to attend college. He participated in ROTC at UH Mānoa while earning his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and rehabilitation science in hopes of becoming a physical therapist for the Army.
“Patrick has a great future ahead of him,” says Lieutenant Colonel Jerrod Melander, UH Professor of Military Science. “Since I have known him, he has always been a proactive person. His studiousness and willingness to contribute to the collective effort of the organization put him in the top 20% of his commissioning cohort nationally. He is quick-witted, and he knows when to be humorous and when to be serious. He is a great asset to the Army medical team.”
Macatlang says Marian Okada gives all recipients of her scholarship a copy of The Obstacle is the Way, a book by Ryan Holiday providing a framework for turning obstacles into opportunities. He says, “It helped me alter my thinking in difficult situations. Ms. Okada knows that our careers will not be easy, but with ROTC training and her assistance, my peers and I are resilient and adaptable officers in the U.S. Army.”
With his bachelor’s degree now in hand, Macatlang says, “I have been accepted to the Army-Baylor University’s doctor of occupational therapy program and will be starting school in January. ROTC was very understanding about being a student first, allowing me to graduate magna cum laude and qualify for this doctoral program.”
Training for leadership
The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, offered at 1,700 colleges and universities in the U.S., prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. military. UH’s Army program began in 1921 and is the only ROTC unit in the nation with a campaign streamer, a decoration attached to its flag, in this case recognizing its active duty in the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In 1942, many UH cadets – officer trainees – were called into service as part of the Hawaiʻi Territorial Guard and subsequently as Varsity Victory Volunteers performing physical labor at Schofield. The Varsity Victory Volunteers were Nisei (second generation Japanese American) cadets who later formed the core of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry Regiment, the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.
Seven members of UH’s ROTC were killed in action during World War II. In 2012, they were awarded honorary degrees in memoriam for the educations they never formally completed, showing immense support for the ROTC program and its legacy.
Nine more graduates of UH ROTC died in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. They are all honored as Fallen Warriors by the UH program, and an annual golf tournament in their memory raises funds for other ROTC scholarships.
ROTC cadets take military science courses alongside their majors at the university. Their first two years are an introduction to the army; their second two focus on military tactics and small unit leadership. The goal for graduates is preparation to be army officers and to train for small unit and organization-level leadership.
“Seeing these cadets grow into leaders, capable of guiding other soldiers, is the most rewarding aspect of this job,” says Melander.
Obstacles and opportunities
“I was nervous and timid before joining ROTC, but my parents’ support and guidance throughout my university studies kept me going, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than leading in the military and making them proud,” says Gweneviere Neth, who also received a 2022-23 Howard S. and Yukiko Okada Scholarship, graduating from the University of Hawaiʻi–West O‘ahu in May with a bachelor’s degree in public administration with a concentration in justice administration.
She says, “My father is a sergeant first class serving in the Hawaiʻi National Guard. He’s been wearing the Army uniform for as long as I can remember. My mother, who was a military child, was surrounded by a father and brothers who also served in the Army. Both parents encouraged me to join Junior ROTC at Moanalua High School to develop leadership skills, confidence, and discipline, and to make a career out of it. They even encouraged me to join ROTC in college.”
“This award is about growth, overcoming past obstacles, and striving to become better,” says Melander. “Gweneviere’s effort led to vast, personal improvements, which is how we measure excellence in this program.”
“The benefits of character development I received from UH ROTC helped me become the person I am today. I learned it’s okay to make mistakes because that’s how I learn to do better and be better,” she says. “I am currently working out at the gym and going through reading material to prepare myself for the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course in the next few months.”
Neth’s advice for other students considering ROTC is, “Give it your all. In everything you do, make sure your heart is in it as well. When things get hard, look toward your battle buddy because you’re embracing the suck together. It’s okay to make mistakes; just learn from them. I will always carry with me the bonds I have created in the past few years. We went from strangers to classmates, to long-lasting friendship. They have pushed me to my limits and influenced me to become better.”