Rolando Gutierrez wasn't lacking for options when he graduated from Sultana High School in 2010.


"I applied to seven different colleges and got into each one."


Thanks to his 4.36 grade point average, he was accepted into the Universities of California at Berkeley and Riverside as well as Cal State San Bernardino and the California Polytechnics at both San Luis Obispo and Pomona.


Instead, Gutierrez made a right turn into Claremont McKenna College's ROTC program, with an eye toward a career in the military.


"I have a lot I owe to this country," he said. "Tuition (at Claremont McKenna) was far more than my parents make in a year," without the Army scholarship he's receiving. "I wanted to show my part that I was thankful for what this country has given me in terms of opportunity."


Between his grades and run through Officer Candidates School following graduation, Gutierrez could theoretically choose a career as far as possible from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, that's just where he wants to be.


"In my mind, if you don't go infantry, or some sort of combat arms, why even go in?"


He's currently considering mechanized infantry infantry that move in and out of hostile environments in armored personnel carriers.


"My family's kind of always been a military family. We were conquistadors for Spain. My family was crusaders," he said. "My family's always been military, just not recently."


In more recent history, some of Gutierrez's uncles are in the military today. His civilian parents supported his choice, even his expressed interest in being on the front lines.


"They were supportive," he said. "Talking about mechanized infantry, at first they were a little hesitant, (but) they've never denied any of their children anything that they really wanted to do. ... They always let us have the choice."


It helped that this wasn't just a whim for a boy who remembers the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was a sixth grader.


"I've always wanted to go in the military long before I went into college," Gutierrez said. "When I told them about ROTC, they were happy that at least I would get a full college education first."


He's currently pursuing a dual major, in Middle Eastern Studies and Religious Studies and is studying Intermediate Arabic. He eventually hopes to work for the Army's Civil Affairs division, working with civilian authorities and populations. Not surprisingly, he estimates he spends between 10 and 12 hours a week in the school library.


Military matters dominate even his downtime at college his extracurricular activities include the ROTC Ranger Challenge, serving in the school's Color Guard and ROTC competitive shooting teams.


"I'm not much of the partying type. I take things a little too seriously."



Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.