MIDN 1/C Laura Palomo
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
School: Boston University
Major: Molecular Genetics/Muslim Societies
Service Selection: Pilot
Written by MIDN 4/C Kim
What’s a fun fact about you?
I backpacked around Europe by myself.
I know you’ve mentioned aerial dance a few times. Is there anything else you do in your free time?
I belly dance and I draw.
What brought you into ROTC?
My father was in the Navy and my mother worked in the Navy. It was a great way to achieve my goal of commissioning while still having as much of a college experience as I could. It’s the best of both worlds.
So I’m guessing you chose the Navy mostly because of your parents?
Yeah, and they have the most diverse skill set. You can do the most from the Navy and they really are globally deployed. In the Army you won’t go to nearly as many places or see as many things as you will in the Navy. It’s really like: join the Navy, see the world. And one of our biggest missions is humanitarian aid, which I think is really important.
Did you go into ROTC with pilot set in mind?
No, I changed like two days before my service selection was due. I came in saying I wasn’t going to fly because my father flew, so I was like “I’m not going to be like my father. Let me do my own thing.” I wanted SWO for a long time. Then I was thinking NFO. I initially submitted NFO, SWO, and pilot third for my service selection. Then I went on a cruise with a helo squadron and only pilots can fly helos so i just gut-changed and said “go with it.” Sometimes you just have to roll the dice.
What are you looking forward to most in the coming years?
Joining the fleet. It’s like you’re biting the bit. You’re like “I just want to get into the fleet, I just want to get into the fleet.” I’ve learned about this for four years, I’ve been training for four years. I want to get out there and do my job.
Is there anything specifically that you are looking forward to in the fleet?
Flight school and the beach. And learning how to fly, obviously. And seeing my friends from the units all over the country. You’ll make a lot of really good friends on cruises and stuff like that and I have friends from high school who are in ROTC and I’m really excited to see them again.
What has been your most meaningful billet or favorite billet?
Definitely platoon commander. I don’t know if I’ve told you, but this is the billet I’ve always wanted when I was a freshman; this is the billet I wanted last semester; this is the billet I wanted when I was a junior and now I finally got it. You have the most direct connection with your platoon and you can actually see people grow. You can actually get to talk to people and make connections, which is what I really enjoy.
Is there anyone from the Navy that has impacted you a lot?
Definitely my running mate and my division in my second class cruise. [Cruise] was where I realized we’re doing something really important and we can really affect people’s lives outside of the mission set and help people achieve their goals. I still keep in contact with them today and I learned so much from them and respect them so much. It’s great knowing that those are the quality of people that you’re going to be working with in the fleet.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m definitely less professional. I value social interaction; talking face to face is always better. I value practice doing things over just getting a brief. That’s why I tried to plan the public speaking exercise and the Ted talk where we had the discussion and why I shared my story. It’s easy to see things as unrelatable, but if you can bring it down to people’s levels, things always seem to work out better. Definitely more hands-on and interactive, less strict leadership style. I find that my strengths lie in personal interactions with people and if I maintain a hard, very professional, rigid, unapproachable demeanor, that’s not where I shine. My strengths can’t flourish in that environment.
Do you have any tips regarding leadership?
You do you. Leadership is truly a “you” thing. You have to learn what makes you comfortable. You have to learn how you lead and your personality. That’s where everyone’s different personalities come through. The worst leaders are the ones who try to pretend to be something they’re not. You have to learn to lead in your own way and be effective.
Do you have any tips for underclassmen or future Midshipmen?
You will survive. I know it doesn’t seem like it at all times, but you just have to dig your heels in when it gets really bad. Those types of semesters will pass. You learn how to not just be like “I’m going to get through this really hard week.” You learn how to be like “I’m going to get through these really hard nine months.” You learn how to deal with that. You will get through.
Do you have any funny stories from your ROTC career?
Our seniors were our platoon commanders and our platoon guides and they were given basically complete freedom to do with us as they will. It involved a lot of hardline yelling at us, but messing with us as well. We were at NSO on base when the first American was beheaded by ISIS. So we all form up in the morning and Platoon Commander Kim, a very large, angry guy, came and he was telling us that this had happened. He also told us at the same time that Taylor Swift had overdosed on heroin and died. We all believed him. So we go into the chow hall and it’s all over the news that an American has been beheaded by ISIS. We didn’t think that he would put those together and lie about that so for about a solid week and a half we were under the impression that Taylor Swift had overdosed and died on heroin.
Do you have any favorite memories from ROTC?
When you go on cruise with the people in your class, it’s great seeing everyone fall in love with what they’re doing. In ROTC, especially within the first year, you can definitely be very much like “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore, I don’t know if I believe in this, what is this?” because ROTC is so different from the fleet. It’s so cool going to cruise and watching everyone who you’re friends with re-fall in love with the Navy.