Following two years of service at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Allied Command Operations Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe headquarters in Mons, Belgium, Senior Major Bonnie Kovatch is the new CWU detachment commander.
She is the first female ARMY ROTC detachment commander in the program's award-winning 37-year history.
"There has been a healthy push across the Army to consider diversity, and shore up gaps, in terms of placement," Kovatch said. "So, this may be a telling of times, a bit. But the goal is still to prepare second lieutenants who are ready to lead platoons into battle - that's the focus."
She is just on of the three female officers now heading ROTC detachments among the 40 schools that comprise the US Army Cadet Command's 8th Brigade, which includes schools in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
Kovatch, a native of Schenectady, New York, said she first became interested in the military after participating in a junior ROTC program during a year in high school in Westminster, Colorado.
"I loved it!" she recalled. "I loved the program. I loved the volunteering. I loved the discipline. I loved the people. I actually enlisted in the National Guard and did basic training while I was still in high school. Then, during my senior year, I applied for ROTC scholarships."
She received one, and that led to her graduation and commissioning as a second lieutenant through the ROTC program at Siena College (New York) in 2003.
"That scholarship actually took precedent over my National Guard enlistment," she noted. " So, in some way, shape, or form, have been involved with an ROTC program and in the military since I was 15 years old - 22 years, at this point."
Kovatch arrives at CWU after working in counterintelligence in NATO. "I worked with 29 nations to get contributions to serve in ACCI [Allied Command Counterintelligence] in order to keep spies from spying on NATO," she said.
Kovatch has also served as a personnel officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as a professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
"I really enjoyed my stint at the academy," she offered as among her reasons for pursuing the career change. "I'm hoping what I took away from the academy, primarily on cadet development but also on faculty development, will benefit the department here at CWU."
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Access, her CWU predecessor, added, "Her background in academia gave her a leg up on me, from when I arrived at Central. She took over a well established team [at CWU], and I think she will do great."
Kovatch says her NATO experiences should also prove valuable in preparing of the next generation of Army leaders. "It really help me understand what I saw happening there; the operating environment and politics in Europe," Kovatch continued. "I hope I can bring to our cadets a sense of that bigger picture and the political dimension that we refer to as 'diplomat-soldiers'."
Kovatch arrived at CWU with her husband, Ryan, and their two children, Lincoln and Charlotte.
"My husband's family is from Valier, Montana, about nine hours east of Ellensburg," she noted. "This is as close as we have ever been to them, so the family dynamic is really great, which was a huge consideration in accepting the position."