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Photography by Ric Evans.


Jennifer Meccariello

Profile in Courage

She remembers scampering through obstacle courses as a child, along with other children at her father’s Army picnics. She remembers trying to mimic his speed and grace. She remembers him cheering her on. And she remembers watching him relax at these gatherings, very different from the gruff persona he adopted with his men as a non-commissioned officer in the US Army Reserves.

Fifteen years later, Bronwyn Odhner talks with the same short, staccato-sounding acronyms she remembers peppering her father’s speech during her childhood in Philadelphia. Despite her slight, unplacable drawl, seemingly incompatible letters flow together to form words, meanings, concepts that aren’t as simple as something like MTV.

“I have the idea that everybody knows what I’m talking about,” Odhner says apologetically, and gently goes through a glossary-like explanation of PT, BDU, XO, putting her finger against her eyebrow as she thinks. “I grew up with this way of speaking. It’s second nature.”

Odhner is winding up a college experience full of distinction. She was one of just two women in charge of a Pittsburgh Army Reserve Officer Training Corps battalion, made up of cadets from 10 universities. She met the President of the United States twice. And she received the highest distinction for someone of her rank, the George C. Marshall Award for Leadership Excellence.

This fall, Odhner, a studio arts and architectural studies major, starts her fifth and final year at Pitt. For the first time in four years she won’t have to rise at 6:30 am three days per week. Gone will be the dozens of e-mails and phone calls made and answered daily, an intrinsic part of her position as executive officer of her battalion. And finally, never again will she be required to walk to class in camouflage.

She will, however, spend one weekend a month and two weeks a year as a second lieutenant in the Pittsburgh Army Reserve. Her ROTC training has readied her for this, and she’s excited to take her place as a commissioned officer.

“Standing up for your country, it’s something to be proud of,” she says, running her French-manicured nails over her ponytail, definitely not part of her uniform. She knows that her honors won’t make life in the Reserves any easier. She often talks with her father about the dangers and thrills waiting for her this year; he continues to cheer her on.

“It’s probably going to be a little lonely,” she admits. “But I’m excited to start the life I’ve chosen to lead.”

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