ROTC standout learns leadership through Rowing
Aug. 5, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
Last August, nursing student Rachel Haungs was new to The University of Texas, looking for fitness and friendship. With Texas Rowing, she found a lot more.
Haungs was already in good shape. She enlisted in the Army six years ago and is a member of the UT ROTC program. When she saw the campus-wide invitation to walk on to the novice rowing squad, Haungs did so with blind determination.
"I didn't understand what rowing was. I thought it would be all arms and upper body," Haungs said. "Obviously, I've learned a lot, in addition to just learning how to row. To be a UT athlete has been an amazing experience. I love being part of a team."
Haungs graduated from her high school near Rochester, NY in 2005 and joined the Army.
"My high school isn't a typical feeder into UT. It wasn't really a positive environment. All of my high school friends already have children of their own," Haungs said. "I needed to get away from that."
Through her service in the Army, Haungs served in Germany and Korea and also did a tour through Iraq. She says it was an "empowering experience," because the Army allowed her to see that anything is attainable through goal-setting and hard work.
During her enlistment period, Haungs began to excel academically. She was taking college courses and earning good grades. A friend's encouragement motivated Haungs to apply to UT, and she won a Green-to-Gold Scholarship, which will allow Haungs to return to the Army as an officer once she completes her nursing degree requirements.
After Haungs won a spot on the novice rowing crew, she was excused from her weekly PT training with ROTC, but she still had to take periodic fitness tests. As she continued to row, Haungs' mental and physical fitness continued to improve.
Haungs says she's among the best performers during her PT tests, and at the ROTC spring awards banquet, Haungs took home seven honors, including the prestigious Department of the Army Superior Cadet Award.
"I have never been in such good shape as I am now," Haungs said. "I don't want this to be the peak of my fitness."
Commitment to her rowing teammates gave Haungs a newly-found purpose, which she credits for improving her time management.
"I didn't think I could handle ROTC, rowing and nursing, but coach Caroline (King) really encouraged me," Haungs said. "Not only did I do it, but I had a better GPA in the spring that I did in the fall. She really helped me realize that I have more to give than I give myself credit for, both physically and mentally."
King's encouragement symbolizes the support Haungs found through rowing.
"There's no better feeling than when all the girls are in sync and the boat is just clicking," Haungs said. "When everything is together, it's powerful and fast - and that's such an amazing feeling. You don't ever want your pain to stop you from contributing to that. You don't want to give out on your team.
"Rowing has without a doubt made it possible for me to be a better leader when I go back to the Army. It has given me a greater understanding of teamwork, mental and physical endurance and leadership."