This past June, Second Lieutenant Aisha Khattak commissioned as a Cyber Corps Officer and will attend the Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) at Fort Gordon, GA. Aisha is one of three UCI cadets who earned their number one choice of branch while accessing active duty in the U.S. Army. Earning one’s top choice requires competing with cadets across the nation, something that Aisha has done since her freshman year at UCI. 

As a Riverside native, Aisha had always dreamed of attending college at one of the distinguished University of California campuses. When she accomplished this goal and was accepted to UCI as a mathematics major, Aisha vowed to make the most of her experience. While she immediately joined the ROTC program, Aisha didn’t stop there—she continued to challenge herself academically and physically, making friends and proving her leadership every step of the way.

For instance, Aisha joined UCI’s club softball team and competed against teams from other Southern California colleges and universities. While the practice and games compounded the physical demands of her regular ROTC workouts and training sessions, Aisha accepted the challenge and pushed herself to succeed. 

Aisha is also proud of the connections she established through the ROTC and her other campus activities. In addition to mentoring junior cadets in the program, she also strove to be a friend that others could rely on and trust. As she assisted her fellow cadets and friends with their personal challenges, Aisha learned the value of selflessness and recognized how it made her a better leader. 

Recalling this time in her life, Aisha says: “As a leader, I developed. As an athlete, I challenged myself. As a friend, I put others before myself.”

Aisha’s continued excellence earned her an opportunity to put herself to the test. Upon the completion of her Cadet Summer Training in 2019, Aisha was invited to intern for the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. It was her first time in New York, and while she was admittedly nervous at the outset, this experience solidified her passion to become a Cyber Officer. During this time, she made life-long connections with civilians, senior officers, fellow cadets and future battle buddies that she will work with at BOLC. Aisha recalls,

I initially thought I was in way over my head and that my mentor could read it on my face, but his response and guidance motivated me to continue teaching myself and studying any chance I had. By the end of several conversations with my mentor, I was able to give a proficient brief in my given project.

Though she is still in a slight state of shock that she was selected for Cyber Corps, Aisha is excited to serve her country. Her parents have a lot to be proud of, as her sister will also be commissioning this year at Azusa Pacific University in the Nurse Corps for the U.S. National Guard.

As Aisha looks forward to an exciting future, she leaves the underclassmen of UCI’s ROTC program with this message: 

It can be easy to say, ‘I want to quit ROTC’, but if you just push past that initial thought and stick with the program and remember why you joined to begin with, you’ll get an experience unlike anyone else here at UCI.

Interested in learning more about UCI’s ROTC program and how they can support your success? Then visit their website here. If you have questions about the program, then check out the article “FAQs About UCI’s ROTC Program” or contact the program coordinators here.