Why This Future Army Officer Believes in the Mission

Photo: Toni Bird

When Nicolas Lozano Landinez’s parents emigrated from Colombia seeking greater opportunities for their sons, they weren’t imagining one of them joining the Army. Indeed, the Stanford senior says, his folks discouraged his early interest in the military, telling him to turn off war TV shows he loved to watch. “I had my aunt buy me Call of Duty, and I played it when my parents were at work.”

But the intrigue never waned. At Stanford, Lozano Landinez, ’18, is one of two students in Army ROTC, which means daily trips to the nearest unit at Santa Clara University, 20 miles away. In June, he will be commissioned as an infantry officer, the first Stanford ROTC grad in seven years to go active-duty Army. He talked to Stanford about why he’s drawn to the Army, his immigrant roots, and how being a resident assistant in the Kappa Alpha house is like leading a cadet battalion.

“Most people [on campus] don’t even know what ROTC is, or that the Army is different than the Navy. That goes back to the civil-military divide and lack of context for the military for most people in the nation. Usually what it comes down to is people see how much I do, and [they] understand and respect the fact that I believe in it.

“Every cadet has to go to [Fort Knox] between junior and senior year. You have people who want to go into the finance corps right next to the guys who want to go infantry. You hadn’t showered for 10 days, and you had heat rash, and it was raining, and you had 90 pounds on your back, and you looked around and there were guys smiling. All those guys went infantry.

“Because there aren’t enough Stanford students [in ROTC], we have this extreme schedule that’s all the way at Santa Clara. But because of this extreme schedule, we will never have enough Stanford students to have a program here.

“[Being battalion commander and being an RA] are so similar. All you’re dealing with is motivation, morale and finding that line between being a hard-ass and showing people the humanity they want to see in you.

“Everything I have is due to the American society but also [to] my parents’ sacrifice, leaving their families. My entire family outside of my mom, dad and brother, they’re still in Colombia. My grandpa died last year, and my dad didn’t get back in time to see him. Things like that — that’s sacrifice.”