The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) recently hosted its inaugural Veteran Career-Ready Bootcamp at the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building (NVRC). This career-preparation event brought together student veterans for a daylong series…
From Quad to Commission: Kristen Northrop Reflects on Raising 2 US Army Officers at Syracuse University
While her sons were training to become officers in the military, Kristen Northrop had a rare vantage point to observe their development from her office at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Two of Kristen’s three sons, William Northrop ’19 and John Northrop ’22, contracted through the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, a career path that Kristen says neither she nor her husband anticipated early on. It wasn’t until high school that it became apparent their middle son might follow in the footsteps of his grandfathers and enter military service.
“Both my father and my husband’s father served. My father was in the Air Force; my father-in-law was a Marine. Both were Cold War vets,” says Northrop, assistant director of the Office of Research and Creative Activity at the Newhouse School. “Both our families grew up with an admiration and respect for the military that was obviously passed down to our boys.”
The Northrop brothers came to Syracuse University after growing up in nearby Camillus. Kristen had taken a job at the University to take advantage of the dependent tuition benefits offered to employees. Kristen’s husband, Dana, had graduated from the University in 1986 and worked in the Central New York region.
All three of their sons attended the University, but each pursued widely different degrees. Kristen’s oldest son, E.J., graduated from in 2018 and now teaches at the nearby Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler High School with the Syracuse City School District.
William, her middle son, graduated from the College of Engineering and Computer Science with a degree in civil engineering. John, the youngest of the brothers, graduated with a degree in sociology from the College of Arts and Sciences. Both William and John also contracted with the Stalwart Battalion and are now serving in the U.S. Army as commissioned officers.
“Early in Will’s time in high school, he went to a lacrosse camp at West Point Military Academy. He’s always liked a very structured environment and has a ‘Type A’ personality,” Kristen says. “Later, he went to Boys State and really liked that regiment; the routine and detail of it all but not the politics.”
While the boys attended games and other events on campus while growing up, Syracuse wasn’t an automatic choice for them. During his junior year of high school, William toured the campus and spoke with Eric Schaertl, the recruiting operations officer for Stalwart Battalion. After seeing the resources and opportunities available to students, he solidified his choice for which direction he would go in life.
John was not far behind, entering his freshman year at Syracuse while William was entering his final year of college. The brothers had plenty of opportunity to spend time together on campus. Both competed on the same club lacrosse team, and both were cadets together in the same ROTC detachment.
John wasn’t interested in following in Will’s exact footsteps, though, and worked hard to make sure he wasn’t seen as just the youngest Northrop brother. Kristen recalls that John’s experience was a bit more challenging, as most of his college experience was spent amid hardships of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“At one point, John was looking at opportunities with other colleges and universities including Texas A&M; he was considering a transfer,” Kristen says. He quickly realized the benefits he was receiving at Syracuse were pretty hard to compete with, referring to the free room and board benefit offered to ROTC cadets who receive the national scholarship.
Kristen says that the boys kept pretty busy throughout their time on campus, limiting how much time she did see them around, but bumping into them from time to time was unavoidable.
“It was, and still is, such a feeling of pride walking around campus, or up to the Quad, and you see the cadets in their uniforms,” Kristen says. “I would run into them on occasion, they took their role as a cadet very seriously. If they came into my office, it was, ‘Yes sir’ or ‘No sir’ to my colleagues and my boss. They were always very respectful.”
The level of professionalism is something she says she continues to notice among ROTC cadets. The location of her office has given her opportunities to engage with underclassmen and ROTC cadets alike, both using spaces for group projects or leadership labs.
“It’s not that a bunch of Army cadets can’t ‘yuk it up’ or whatever, but that just wasn’t the case. I could hear their conversations amongst each other, they were very different, always very focused. The ROTC cadets are always respectful to their cadre and professors alike, and they dress appropriately even when not in uniform, always upholding their cadet image.”
Since graduating, both of the Northrop brothers have pursued their dreams of going into Army aviation. William is currently a captain and pilots the AH-64 Apache helicopter; John is currently a lieutenant and has just completed his CH-47 Chinook helicopter flight training. Both, Kristen says, recognize the importance of their background and experience here with Syracuse University.
“They understand the importance of the ROTC program to the school, the longevity of the program being here. They talk it up amongst their colleagues with great pride, and I think that both of them would say their training here with Stalwart Battalion prepared them well to launch their careers,” Kristen says.
For more information on the benefits available for aspiring military officers or to learn about the benefits of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Syracuse University, please visit the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs.