Sitting on his grandmother’s sewing room floor drawing tactical maneuvers on a piece of paper, Richard Whittemore was only two years old when he realized he was going to be a U.S. military officer.
“You know Ricky, I don’t want you to be in the Army,” said Whittemore’s grandmother. “It’s okay grandma. I’m going to be an officer,” Whittemore replied. “I don’t know how I knew it, but ever since then … it’s always been my direction.”
Originally from New Mexico, Whittemore took his first role in preparing to become an officer by joining the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program offered to high school students interested in a military career. Soon after, at 17 years old, Whittemore enlisted in the Army National Guard and served with the Recruit Sustainment Program, an Army National Guard program that introduces new recruits to Army fundamentals, for a year until he could attend Army Basic Combat Training.
After completing basic training, Whittemore spent the next few years focusing on his military training and pursuing some of the academic benefits the National Guard has to offer. He said his time as an enlisted Soldier will reflect in his ability to lead Soldiers during his career as an officer.
“I’ve been to Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training and [Basic Leader Course], so I think knowing the trains of thought of both an officer and enlisted, I can try to make better decisions in the future.”
Currently, at the Northern Arizona University hosted Joint Field Training Exercise at Camp Navajo Training Center near Flagstaff, Arizona, Whittemore is living up to the internal directives set forth nearly 20 years ago, and making waves that could carry him through to his goals.
“Whittemore is doing extremely well,” said Capt. Christopher Triem, assistant professor of Military Science at NAU and National Guard Liaison. “He’s [among] the top of his class at Northern Arizona University.”
Not only has Whittemore made an impression on his leadership and cadre, his tenacity reflected in his efforts during the training exercise at Camp Navajo as he led 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon through tactical events. His hard work and knowledge have also gained the attention and support of his fellow cadets.
“He’s always been the one to [go to] for help. He’s really book-smart with Army regulations … so when it comes to tactics I can ask him about that,” said Cadet Martin Cornidez, who is serving in both the Arizona Air National Guard and NAU ROTC along-side Whittemore. “I notice a lot of people will go to him too. All around, he’s a well-shaped cadet. He does [well] in the National Guard and here too with the ROTC.”
Whittemore attends NAU full time, studying sociology and psychology with the help of his National Guard scholarship, which affords him the opportunity to focus on his academics. He has approximately one year left before his expected graduation date, at which time he will pick up his commission and fulfill his longtime goal of becoming an Army officer.
The Arizona Army National Guard, NAU ROTC and universities throughout the state have all come together to play an essential role in preparing Whittemore, and others like him, to attain their goals, answer their country’s call, and lead American Soldiers for generations to come.
“I plan to stick with the Army, either in the Guard or continue on through active [Army],” Whittemore said. “It really depends on how the winds shift later in my career.”