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Army Pilot Reflects on BVU ROTC Start

July 09, 2020 5:15pm

Elijah Zaiger came to Buena Vista University with much of his focus on baseball. He leaves as a graduate, soon to command a $16-million Blackhawk helicopter for the U.S. Army.

A lot can change in four short years.

“I came to BVU to play baseball,” says Zaiger, an accomplished prep on the diamond at Audubon High School. “BVU also has a good track record with the Siebens School of Business, so that’s what I was thinking about academically.”

Zaiger gave up baseball after a couple of seasons with the Beavers, harboring no regrets. For starters, he didn’t have an abundance of time, as a military commitment, which required training sessions, a leadership lab, and military class commitments, placed him on a new trajectory.

“I got a two-and-a-half-year Minuteman Scholarship, which meant I went into the Iowa Army National Guard,” says Zaiger, who was introduced to BVU’s ROTC program during his freshman year. “I’d always wanted some military training, and ROTC presented a great opportunity for training and it would help pay for my education.”

Zaiger joined ROTC the second semester of his freshman year. This May, he was commissioned upon graduating from BVU, and now serves as a Second Lieutenant. Soon, he’ll be off to U.S. Army Flight School, an 18-month training program at Fort Rucker in Alabama. Upon earning his wings, he’ll serve, at minimum, a 10-year commitment.

“I’ll likely serve our country for 20 years,” says Zaiger, whose BVU degree is in strategic public relations.

As he prepares for a future steeped in serving his country, Zaiger looks back on a four-year BVU stay that produced plenty of highlights. Perhaps none was greater than the summer of 2019 when Zaiger spent three months on a cultural-learning exchange in Mongolia, followed by an advance camp at Fort Knox, Kent., where officers assessed leadership skills among future officers.

“As I learned, I grew more confident,” Zaiger says. “I began realizing I could meet challenges presented.”

A small number of the 600 or so participants in the camp earned the prestigious Recondo Award presented at the camp’s conclusion. Zaiger felt a tremendous sense of pride in being able to take the award back to Iowa.