MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Muskogee native Garrett Ford graduated with top honors the University of Oklahoma, and he says he's ready to make a difference.
As OU's top Army ROTC December graduate, Ford already is a lieutenant in the Oklahoma National Guard. He said he earned a spot in the National Guard flight school where he will learn to fly a Black Hawk helicopter.
Ford also seeks to join the Tulsa Police Department and plans to attend the TPD academy in May.
He said serving on the police force and Oklahoma National Guard enables him to serve his country, state and city.
"I want to make a difference, and I feel like law enforcement is a field that lets you make a difference, as well as serving your country," Ford said. "In the Oklahoma National Guard, you can serve your state as well, helping out during natural disasters."
Ford, who majored in criminology, said he's ecstatic about graduating at the top of the ROTC class.
"I put my heart into the program," he said, adding that it took passion to rise to the top.
"I tried to lead by example and set the tone for the rest of the battalion," he said. "I was the first one there at PT every morning. I would never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself. I always tried to do the right thing."
He also credited ROTC instructors, particularly Capt. Rob Roberts, for pushing him to succeed.
"He invested a lot of time in me," he said. "He believed in me."
Ford attended Creek Elementary School through sixth grade, then attended Hilldale, where he graduated in 2014.
"Being part of the football team, track team and power lifting prepared me for the Army physically, but also the mental toughness part," he said. "Going early to workouts, staying late after school to run miles around the track, that's two aspects. It's mentally challenging having the discipline at that young age, to wake up, especially during the summer, and go to workout."
He said he grew up wanting to attend OU and join the Army.
"My cousin was in the Army, I always looked up to him," he said. "He's about 10 years older than me. He'd come home when he was on leave and tell me really cool stories about him jumping out of planes and stuff."
Ford said the Army ROTC enabled him to attend the Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he saw his cousin.
"ROTC has really provided me a lot of opportunities," he said. "Paid for my college, I'm debt free going to college. I actually made money going to college and it was all from doing what I love to do."
Spaulding writes for Muskogee Phoenix, a CNHI News Service publication.