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From track meets to National Guard drills: Baran’s unexpected journey

Carlen Baran '21 stands in the ROTC training area behind Furman's chapel.

Carlen Baran’s family was more than a little surprised when she told them she had joined ROTC.

“It was a complete shock to everyone in my family,” she said, noting that among her extended family, only a cousin in Norway serves in the military. Both of Baran’s parents are members of academia, and neither are military veterans.

The Racine, Wisconsin, sophomore will spend the summer of 2019 in Senegal, participating in the Cultural Understanding & Leadership Program, a humanitarian exchange program operated by the U.S. Army for its ROTC cadets.

She secured the competitive position as an undergraduate by enrolling in Furman’s Paladin Battalion, an Army ROTC program operated in conjunction with North Greenville University and Bob Jones University. Baran surprised even herself when she decided to make the move and adopt a military lifestyle.

“I didn’t know I wanted to do this,” she said.

“It’s a mental challenge. It teaches you how to work with people from everywhere and all walks and people who are different from you.”

In some ways, Baran’s affinity for the discipline of the military is a natural fit. She’s conducted herself with military-style aplomb for years, helping her team win the distance medley relay at the Southern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship in February. She also placed in the 4-by-400 individual event.

As for the future, the health sciences major wants to become a nurse practitioner. It’s a field of study that requires plenty of work outside the typical classroom.

“I’m running around a lot,” she said. “We have a lot of lab requirements. I have three labs per week this semester, so I’m not done until 5:30 those days. I have ROTC events on the weekend and sometimes track meets on the weekend. Then I have to do homework.”

So when Baran enrolled in a military science class and demonstrated her mettle to Lt. Col. Ryan Forshee, he saw that she’d be a great fit for the ROTC program. Forshee encouraged her to enroll, and she thrived, earning a three-year scholarship. In exchange, she has made a commitment to serve in the National Guard. She currently drills with a local aviation unit once a month.

“I’m really invested in the Army,” she said. “It’s something I’m really committed to.”


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