Taking Orders
A recent ROTC grad does—and doesn’t

By Stella Rozenbroek ’23 AM / September–October 2023
August 24th, 2023
Image of Raquel Ruiter saluting an officer with flags in the background.
In high school, Ruiter says she wrote stories and dreamed of becoming a paramedic.Photo: Nick Dentamaro

Raquel Ruiter ’23, who just graduated from Brown’s Air Force ROTC unit, doesn’t seem like she’s the type to take orders from anyone. “Well, that’s why I’m going into the reserves,” she laughs. “You take fewer orders.”

She certainly didn’t listen to her AP calculus teacher in high school. “She told me not to go to Brown, because I’d be at the bottom of the bell curve and never graduate,” Ruiter remembers.

The first Brown student in AFROTC  since the Vietnam War, Ruiter just got her degree in international and public affairs and is looking at eight years as a reserves intelligence officer. She’ll bring a little Brown to the role. “The military recruits a certain type of person. Usually strict, high and tight, straight arrow, and I would say I’m not,” says Ruiter. “You gotta bend the rules a little. Not that my commander likes that.”

In high school, Ruiter ran track and competed in Olympic-style weightlifting. “When the Navy recruiters came to my school, they held pull-up competitions,” Ruiter says. “And I was always that girl who could do, like, seventeen. They wanted someone who could run fast, lift heavy, and think on their feet.”

Brown was a good fit from the first. “My first class I took was Politics of the Illicit Global Economy, with Professor Andreas. And it was so relevant to what I was doing in the military at the time.”

Ruiter learned Russian at Brown and worked summers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. She says the experiences helped her identify all kinds of links between language, international politics, and national security.

Walking around campus in fatigues, she has been accosted and interrogated about the war in Afghanistan by fellow students and frequently comes across anti-war slogans like “war is murder for profit”  plastered around College Hill. “Brown is progressive, until it’s not,” she muses. “But that’s something the school is making great progress with.”

Ruiter noticed Brown was lagging behind other ROTC programs and says she lobbied the administration to change that. In four years, Ruiter has successfully recruited sixteen ROTC cadets into Brown’s programs—eight of them women.

As for being a female cadet, there’s not much to say about that. “I still like dresses and heels. I love a good stiletto,” she says. On the weekends, she’s off the clock and spends time with friends like any other student. “As long as you can still run a seven-minute mile, that’s all they care about.” A seven-minute mile? “Yeah. Or in my case, six minutes and forty-five seconds. Oh, and you also have to be able to do 47 pushups in a minute, and 56 situps in a minute, if you really want to ace the physical training test.”

Once she ran slightly slower than her usual time. One of her male peers asked if she was disappointed with her score. “No,” she answered, “because I still beat most of you guys by two laps.” This summer, Ruiter is applying for jobs in national security and plans to attend law school to study policy and legislature. She’ll still be running lots of laps, this time with her dog Charlie in tow. Catch her if you can.

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September–October 2023