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Celebrating ROTC’s 50th year at Austin Peay: 2nd Lt. Cristina Taylor

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Cristina Taylor with her dad in 2001.

(Posted on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022)

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Austin Peay State University is celebrating its 50th year. To mark the occasion, each month we’ll share one story of a Governor’s Guard alumni or former leader. This month, we share the story of 2nd Lt. Cristina Taylor, who graduated and earned her commission at age 38 in May 2020.

Before graduating from Austin Peay in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Taylor was one of many combat veterans in the ROTC program. During her senior year, of the program’s 117 cadets, 20 had combat experience serving in 41 combat tours.

Taylor served from 2003-04 in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a cook in the 104th Military Intelligence Battalion and was in one of the first convoys during the invasion. She also met her husband, Zachary Taylor, during the tour at a Camp Speicher dining facility.

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Taylor pulls the lanyard on an M777 Howitzer during BOLC in 2020.

“When we got there, we pulled up the containerized kitchen and served out of that for a few months, until we got a building up and running,” she said. “We personalized it to give people a sense of home. We had people coming from areas around Tikrit to our dining facility to come and eat because they heard we were the best.”

Zachary Taylor drove colonels on base when he first met Cristina.

“There were a lot of faces that came through, and I think he stood out more because he took the time to get to know me,” she recalled. “He wrote a little note that said I had a beautiful smile and held it up to the window. I didn’t know how to react. I turned bright red.

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Taylor earned her Air Assault wings in April 2021.

“They were always coming in late from missions they had outside the wire,” she said. “I started making plates for them because they always came in late.”

Cristina Taylor was honorably discharged after serving three years of active-duty service.

After she joined Austin Peay’s ROTC program, she realized leadership for the first time in her military career, leading the younger cadets with her experience.

“That kind of leadership is what I like,” she said in a 2019 interview. “I feel like I’m going to be that leader that likes to be with the soldiers, mentoring, answering any questions.”

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Taylor with fellow women officers at BOLC graduation in March 2021.

Taylor rejoined active-duty services as a second lieutenant in the field artillery with a branch detail adjutant general. After training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and six months at the Basic Officer Leadership Course, she returned to Fort Campbell and began serving with the 101st Airborne Division. She currently is with the 3-320th Field Artillery Battalion, serving as a public affairs officer, senior command family readiness representative and officer sponsorship coordinator.

“I will be going down to the (battery) soon to serve as a fires direction officer,” she said. “I’m excited/nervous about that but feel ready to perform to the best of my abilities.”

She credits Austin Peay and the ROTC with her success.

“My teachers and instructors brought out the best in me, teaching me to pay attention to detail, become more task oriented and organized,” Taylor said. “I have much more to learn but feel more confident where I am now.

“I feel while attending that the whole idea of being part of APSU made it the best,” she added. “I can list many things that made it outstanding: the campus’s perfect size, the faculty being very military friendly and understanding, the friendships, the ROTC program.”

The ROTC program is set apart from other universities because of Green to Gold – which helps enlisted soldiers earn college degrees and become officers – and the veteran soldiers that it brought to campus, she said.

“They are able to mentor a lot of the potential second lieutenants that are about to join active duty, Reserves or National Guard,” Taylor said. “A lot of the other schools don’t have this encouraging impact that cadets receive.”

She hopes to return to Austin Peay to obtain a master’s degree and is thankful for APSU faculty, instructors and friends “for the positive footprint you left in my heart.”

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