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Angie McCallister sitting in aircraft

The sky’s the limit for a new University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa graduate, literally.

Angie McCallister graduated in spring 2020 with a BA in anthropology, was a leader in UH Mānoa’s Army ROTC program, earned the title “Distinguished Military Graduate” by the U.S. Army and mentors high school JROTC programs across Oʻahu. And, starting in fall 2020, McCallister is headed to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Fort Rucker, Ala. to become a pilot.

But, it isn’t the flying she is most nervous about. It’s the so-called “dunker training” that McCallister wants to complete and get over with. This involves trainees being strapped in a test aircraft, which gets submerged in water, and tests water survival skills.

“I am looking forward to passing dunker school training, because I want to conquer my fear, which has always been swimming,” McCallister said. “I just recently learned how to swim, so being able to get there and accomplish that would be such a blessing.”

Journey to UH Mānoa

three people in uniforms smiling

McCallister, a native of Fresno, Calif., always wanted to join the U.S. Army. However, after graduating from high school in 2008, her mother became ill. As much as she wanted to serve, she knew that she needed to remain home and take care of her mother. McCallister attended Fresno City Community College and fortunately, after her mother got better, she enlisted into the U.S. Army.

Then in 2017, McCallister applied to the Green to Gold program, which allows enlisted soldiers to pursue a baccalaureate or graduate degree and earn a commission as an officer. McCallister heard great things about the UH Mānoa ROTC program, so she packed her bags and headed for Oʻahu in fall 2018.

UH Mānoa has been a great experience for me and my family,” McCallister said. “I attended college back in 2008 and so to pick up from where I started was a little rough. I really wasn’t sure what to expect and I was just so scared and nervous, but all my professors and the ROTC program cadre were so welcoming that transition was a fulfilling one.”

“She will go far”

“She is humble, dedicated, fit, compassionate, and strives to make herself better every day,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Gregory, professor of military science. “She poured herself into this program and into the development of her peers and the underclassmen. Even after class ended you would still find her in the ROTC building, planning training for the upcoming weeks or working with her classmates on future projects.”

Professor James Bayman is the UH Mānoa anthropology undergraduate chair in the College of Social Sciences and taught two of McCallister’s courses.

“Angie McCallister is an exceptionally hard working and respectful student and individual,” Bayman said. “She energizes any classroom with her focused and thoughtful enthusiasm for the subject at hand. She will go far in life and those of us who are fortunate to know her are enriched by her positive, upbeat attitude.”

As focused as she is to achieve her academic and career goals, McCallister remains grounded and keeps family first.

“My motivation always comes from my mother and my husband. Everything I do is for them and that’s what keeps me going everyday,” McCallister said.

—By Marc Arakaki

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