A Commitment to Military Service – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Commitment to Military Service

Recent graduates Riley McCarthy ’15, William Schweitzer VI ’11 and Ben Vannah ’15 each made the decision to serve in the United States Armed Forces while they were students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Following his service in the U.S. Army as an Army Ranger, Schweitzer returned to HWS, earning his bachelor’s degree this past May alongside McCarthy and Vannah.

Joining the ranks of many distinguished alumni and alumnae servicemembers, McCarthy will soon attend U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School and Vannah will report to Army basic training with the opportunity to enter the Army Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

Riley McCarthy ’15 began considering military service before her junior year following an experience working for a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. She says she realized that she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself as well as engage in a pursuit that would allow her to learn important leadership skills while defending her country.

McCarthy credits her HWS experiences with helping prepare her for her endeavors in the U.S. Marine Corps. She says her experience as a four-year member of the NCAA National Championship-winning William Smith soccer team as well as her time spent in the classroom are both greatly valued as part of her HWS education.

“By leading members of the team in practice as well as off the field, I was able to gain the confidence and leadership skills that I need in order to be successful in the military,” McCarthy says. “Having been required to follow direction and stay disciplined through a dry season with curfews and adequate sleep, I learned the basis as to what will be expected of me further down the road, both mentally and physically.”

In the classroom, McCarthy says her experiences helped her vocalize and develop her decision-making skills. She says with encouragement from faculty, she feels prepared to speak out and use her voice in “critical thinking situations” in the military field as well as in the classroom environment at Officer Candidates School.

“My goal is to improve upon and gain new leadership skills and attributes of confidence that will aid me leading other future Marines,” McCarthy says. “My expectation is that I will take newly learned skills and apply them to all aspects of my life outside of the military as well.”

McCarthy graduated from William Smith with a B.A. in anthropology and a double minor in Hispanic studies and Latin American studies.

From an early age, Ben Vannah ’15 developed an interest in the military and United States history, knowing that he always wanted to serve in some capacity. With his interest continuing to grow at HWS, Vannah decided to visit the U.S. Army recruiter’s office in Geneva.

At the beginning of his senior year, Vannah swore in at the Syracuse Military Entrance Processing Station. He’s enlisting into active duty with the Army as an E4 Specialist and will be attending infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training) for 14 to 16 weeks.

“I am hoping through my service to be able to challenge myself, find out a raw sense of what kind of person I am, and give a little back along the way to the country and community that has provided me with so much opportunity already,” Vannah says.

Vannah says his time at Hobart was extremely meaningful to him, and that he hopes to also discover a similar sense of belonging and pride with those he’ll serve with in the near future. 

Vannah’s father, Curt Vannah ’82, P’15, recalls that Ben had military service “in his DNA” since he was a child. “He is volunteering for something he doesn’t have to do,” Curt says. “He has specifically chosen to do this, which I think says a lot about him.”

Ben earned his B.A. in political science with a minor in American studies. On campus, he was a member of Hobart rowing and the club rugby team as well as Kappa Alpha Society fraternity.

Will Schweitzer ’11 attended Hobart College from 2007 until 2011, when he joined the U.S. Army and deployed multiple times to Afghanistan as an infantryman serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment, 2nd Battalion. Schweitzer credits his academic endeavors at HWS as a key factor in his decision to serve in the military.

His political science courses in particular, he says, were what largely inspired him to join the military. He also credits conversations with Associate Professor of Political Science Paul Passavant, Associate Professor of Political Science and Middle East scholar Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Vikash Yadav, and Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn.

“All of these professors understood that the war was ongoing and that there was a lot of work to do right now,” he says. “In the spring of 2011, I took a seminar titled ‘Taliban’ with Professor Vikash Yadav. What I learned in this class was invaluable to understanding the decision I had made and further fueled my desire to become a part of the special operations community.”

Schweitzer says his service in the U.S. Army was an experience that both fostered his personal growth and allowed him to form valuable relationships. Through his service, he explains that he’s gained a heightened sense not only of himself, but also of the military itself and the foreign policy of our nation.

“I had an amazing opportunity to meet and work with some of the best people in our military,” Schweitzer says. “I believe those people are the core of what makes America the greatest country on Earth. I can’t say enough about the friends I made and their continued service in the defense of our nation.”

After completing his military commitment, Schweitzer returned to HWS and earned his degree in May 2015. He received his B.A. in political science with a minor in law and society. On campus, he played on the football team. Schweitzer plans to pursue a career in politics in New York City and aspires to run for public office.

“I directly credit my teachers over the years, in high school and at HWS, with shaping me into the person I am today,” Schweitzer says. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve them for the rest of my life through a career of public service.”

In the photo are: Riley McCarthy ’15, William Schweitzer VI ’11 and Ben Vannah ’15. McCarthy will soon attend U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School. After serving as an Army Ranger, Schweitzer received his degree this past May. Vannah will report to U.S. Army basic training with the opportunity to enter the Army Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.