Marine Lawyer Uses Track, Determination to Overcome Adversity

Marine Lawyer Uses Track, Determination to Overcome Adversity

Second Lieutenant Rhavean Anderson (pictured second from the right), alongside her teammates, competed in the women's distance medley at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas, on April 2014. The team went on to win and break a record with a time of 11 minutes 31 seconds and 21 nanoseconds. Photo by 2ndLt Rhavean.

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (September 1, 2016) — "Ten weeks of trying to impress this group of extremely talented Marines, trying to prove that you're good enough to join this organization, that you're good enough to join this family. Then you get your eagle, globe and anchor, and they're shaking your hand… It's an indescribable feeling." 

This is the sentiment of 2ndLt Rhavean Anderson, a former NCAA champion in track, newly-commissioned Marine Corps officer and current first-year student at the University of Kansas School of Law, upon her graduation from Marine Corps Officer Candidates School.

Anderson, a Memphis, Tennessee, native, graduated from OCS in Quantico, Virginia, Aug. 6, 2016. Once she graduates law school, she will begin her career as a Judge Advocate General.

The mission of OCS is to train, screen and evaluate candidates who must demonstrate a high level of leadership potential and a commitment to success in order to earn a commission. There are numerous paths to becoming an officer, one of which is the Platoon Leaders Course, which features a 10-week program designed for college graduates and which Anderson chose as her source of commissioning.

Anderson points to her upbringing as the defining reason for her call to service. She grew up in a crime-ridden neighborhood in the South where gang activity, poverty and robberies were a norm.

"I remember one time our house was broken into three times in one month," she recalled. "We witnessed things like that and had to be fearful of who we talked to and where we'd go during certain times of the day and night."

Despite her rough upbringing, Anderson says her motivation comes from one word… ‘Can't.' 

"The biggest thing will always be remembering how I grew up," said Anderson. "I've encountered people that told me that because I was African-American, because I was first-generation college, because I was a female I couldn't do certain things. They wanted to put limitations on me. The word "can't" just kind of triggers something in me to make me want to show that person that I can do it for the simple fact that they told me I couldn't."

"The first thing I ask someone who walks through my door is, ‘Why do you want to become a Marine Corps officer?'" said Capt Adan Vazquez, the Recruiting Station Kansas City Officer Selection Officer, whose office KU falls under for recruiting. "[Anderson's] mindset has always been perseverance. She went to OCS with the correct mindset of ‘I'm leaving there in one of two ways, as a second lieutenant or in a body bag… like there is no way I'm quitting.'"

From the life of a college student-athlete who ran for KU under a full scholarship, to a Marine Corps candidate attending OCS, Anderson excelled and played to her strengths.

The Marine Corps has a semi-annual physical fitness test used to assess physical conditioning. The perfect time for the three mile run portion of the PFT is 21 minutes for females and 18 minutes for males. According to Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Anderson completed her final PFT three mile run in 16 minutes and 3 seconds. She also holds the new obstacle course record time for women with a time of 1 minute and 23 seconds.

"OCS definitely breaks the body down after ten weeks so for my final PFT to be that fast, I was shocked," she exclaimed. "I'm an example of a female that can run faster than a lot of males so I think that should just open up people's eyes to give them more of a push toward what the military is already striving for, which is giving women the equal opportunity to further themselves in any job field."

According to the University of Kansas, law students gain practical experience by prosecuting criminals, representing criminals, serving in a judge's chambers and more. In the Marine Corps, there are many types of cases, many types of courtrooms and many opportunities for advancement as a Marine Corps Judge Advocate. 

The training Marine Corps officers receive prepares them to be a leader, both inside the courtroom and out. While most civilian attorneys are relegated to research duty on cases tried by others, judge advocates build courtroom skills and acquire extensive legal experience in a shorter time frame. According to Marine Corps Recruiting Command, the three most common areas of practice for first-time judge advocates include criminal litigation, operational and international law, and civil law. 

"I always liked school and wanted to further my education," she explained. "I always knew that my parents didn't have the money to send me to college so I always thought to myself ‘How can I use this athletic gift as a vehicle to get me to my education?'"

Anderson is expected to receive her law degree in May 2018 and, although she is not surrounded by Marines on a day to day basis while in law school, she's proud to have earned her title of Marine Corps officer.

"The Marines are the strongest fighting force the world has ever known and now I'm a part of it," said Anderson proudly. "It's been surreal and I look forward to succeed in the way that I have in the Marines."

The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) is provided as a public service operated by Third Army/U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) on behalf of the Department of the Army in support of all branches of the U.S. military (Navy, Air Force, Marines) and its Coalition partners serving in the U.S. Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.