Morgan Maroni, a fourth-year computing security student, is one of 15 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps second lieutenants in the country to be assessed into the Army Cyber Branch. The new branch focuses on developing software and cyber warfare. Maroni, from Syracuse, N.Y., currently serves as the command sergeant major of the Army ROTC Tiger Battalion. After graduation, she will pursue a master’s degree in cyber security and begin working for the branch. In addition to the ROTC, she is a member of Women in Computing and enjoys weightlifting.
Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: I decided in high school that I wanted to pursue cyber security. RIT is one of the few schools in the country that has a cyber security program and an ROTC program. It also was close to home so it was a good fit.
Q: Why did you major in computing security?
A: I took programming classes in high school and I wanted to pursue something that was challenging and interesting in college. I like programming because it’s creative and you can do different tasks multiple ways. Cyber security is interesting because it’s changing all the time.
Q: Why did you decide to join the ROTC?
A: I joined mostly for the scholarships the program offers. I also was in an explorer group for the military in high school run by retired sergeants. I really enjoyed the program and applied a lot of what I learned at ROTC. I’m still in contact with a bunch of guys that I met there.
Q: What are some goals you achieved at RIT?
A: I got in shape. When I left high school, I wasn’t in good shape but now I have the maximum physical fitness score in my ROTC class. I was striving to achieve the goal all throughout my freshman year and I finally reached it at the end of my freshman year and I’ve had it ever since. It’s important to me to be in peak physical shape.
Q: What types of training did you complete during the ROTC program?
A: The program emphasizes leadership development. We used to focus a lot on tactical lanes where we went out into the field with our fake rifles and some of us acted like the enemy and we did pretend missions. However, the program is now focusing more on the leadership aspect such as commanding a unit. The doctoral change happened a couple years ago so my class was in the middle of the switch so it was all new for us. They also changed the summer training test from Fort Lewis (Washington) to Fort Knox (Kentucky). The knowledge that we were tested on to commission focused more on leadership.
Q: How did you develop leadership skills?
A: We take a military science class for all four years. We also get put into different leadership positions throughout the year. During the day-to-day training, the freshmen cadets act like privates and are expected to just show up for training on time with the right equipment. At the end of the second year, sophomores get squad leader positions where they manage a small group of freshmen. Juniors have a much wider range of leadership roles and rotate through every leadership position over three weeks. For each position, seniors grade the juniors’ briefing of orders and evaluate their physical training. Grading the juniors has been a leadership development activity for me because evaluating them made me reflect on my own leadership skills.
Q: What are your duties as a senior?
A: I was the supply officer for the battalion last semester. I coordinated all of the training materials and resources to train at Fort Drum on the weekends. This semester I’m the command sergeant major of the battalion. As cadets we’re training to become officers but they also have us learn about the enlisted positions, which are sergeants and privates. My job is to manage standards and discipline of the cadets and relay orders.
Q: How many second lieutenants were assessed into the Army Cyber Branch?
A: We have about 11 graduating and commissioning lieutenants this semester. I’m the only lieutenant to join the Cyber Branch from RIT. There were only 15 positions for ROTC cadets in the country, so I didn’t think I was going to get picked. RIT’s training curriculum helped me perform well during the summer training test at Fort Knox. I think I got into the branch because of my preparation at RIT.
Q: What does the Cyber Branch specialize in?
A: Many of the lieutenants work on developing tools and software. There also are attack and defense teams. These are two of the five sub branches within the Cyber Branch but I’m honestly not sure what the rest of the sub branches are. The branch is new so it’s still developing.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories at RIT?
A: We have a military ball every year where we all get in our dress uniforms for a fancy dinner. We have skits where each class makes a video making fun of the class above them and the seniors make fun of the cadre. Usually it’s very creative and entertaining but it’s mostly just inside jokes between the battalion so the dates don’t understand them. My class looked back on all the videos we made as freshmen and sophomores to see how we have changed over the years. Usually the closest friends cadets have are other cadets because we spend so much time together.
Q: After graduation, what are your plans?
A: Over the summer, I will be working fulltime for a company that I co-oped for. In the fall, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in computing security at the college the Army chooses for me.