LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A DeRidder native who got her start in the ROTC program at McNeese State University, is this week’s Hometown Hero.
It was the early 1980s when Cheryl Harris attended McNeese and was part of the ROTC program. It was a natural fit.
“I was born in DeRidder. my father had been in the military. So, it was almost a natural inclination that I would seek to serve,” she said.
One of the first female African American ROTC members at McNeese, Harris feels the rigors of working through cultural and ethnicity issues broadened her horizons.
“Just being able to have that connectivity and look at an individual based on their merit, not necessarily the packaging. I always say that my packaging is the first thing you see. But there’s a lot more to me that what you see.”
In 2004, she served as commander of the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion deployed to Iraq.
“It was a full year deployment. It was for a military intelligence unit where our mission was not physical wharf fighting. Our mission was to collect the intelligence and provide what we need to our commander. It was a great experience because we had to serve as war fighters. "
Now, two master’s degrees and a doctorate later, Harris feels her years at McNeese provided a solid foundation.
“I had a great experience there and what I learned, more specifically what I take from Mcneese, is my experience in the ROTC department. That was the basis and the baseline and the foundation for my leadership.”
Now that she has completed her doctorate, Harris plans to continue to work with military personnel and students in the classroom.