Facing Forward

Ashley Smilowski – Future Soldier

Ashley Smilowski is a future soldier. Well, at this point she is a soldier. Smilowski went to Fort Lenoard Wood in Missouri as a Private First Class to be an MP in September. Smilowksi said she was inspired to join the service by her grandfather Ed Smilowski who served in the Navy during WWII. A year after his death his grand daughter was at basic training.

Smilowski also met her fiancee Josh Heller while at the JROTC program at the Jackson Area Career Center. Heller was deployed to Korea while we followed her story so their time together was very limited.

“It gave me a lot more confidence,” Smilowski said about her time in the JROTC program.

She is committed to an eight year stint in the army and after that she feels like she will have a great set of opportunities ahead of her.

“I could be an MP. I could be a cop. I could pursue my dream of working with animals and be a veterinarian,” Smilowski said. “It’s a good way to start.”

Ashley shared her story with the Citizen Patriot as part of the Teen Network, a year long series of stories and multi platform content aimed at giving the community an accurate picture of life as a teen in Jackson County.

Ashley Smilowski leads her JROTC Golden Knight unit on a jog around the Jackson Area Career Center. Smilowski is one of the 154 students from local area high schools that participate in the JROTC program. Lt. Colonel Lapham said that all about one of the 51 graduating seniors from last years program went into the military.

Smilowski stands in sunglasses as a circle forms up for the JROTC students to stretch. Smilowski has committed to the Army for eight years, five of which will be active duty.

Smilowski grabs stuff from her locker during class breaks at Hanover-Horton High School. Smilowski splits her day between classes at Hanover-Horton and the Jackson Area Career Center where she attends her JROTC classes.

Smilowski talks with Colonel Lapham in a conference room for notes on a recent exercise. “Since 9/11, our young people are motivated to make a difference,” Lapham said. It makes me confident about our next generation.

Ashley Smilowski ties off a harness during JROTC training while wearing her engagement ring. Her fiancee, Joshua Heller, proposed to her while he was on leave from serving in Korea last December. Heller and Smilowski met while in high school and the JROTC program.

Ashley Smilowski stretches out to touch a tree during Raider training at the JROTC class in the Jackson Area Career Center.

Ashley Smilowski, right, holds hands with her fiancee Josh Heller during the Jackson Area Career Center's open house. Heller is in the Army and stationed in Korea The time they get to spend together is limited.

Ashley Smilowski clutches her dress as she walks into the Gene Davis and Sons banquet hall for the JROTC Military Ball. The students show up in there dress uniforms and then after the awards portion can change into other formal wear for a dance.

Smilowski dances with her JROTC classmates during their annual banquet. The banquet, which is a requirement of the program, usually coincides with some local high school proms. The ROTC program hosts a dance after their banquet so the students can still experience a prom.

Smilowski looks to her friends as she is tattooed at Cloverland Tattoo Parlor in Jackson. Weeks before she was shipped to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri she got a set of dog tags tattooed on her side with the date of her grandfathers death in the chain. Smilowski said her grandfather, who served in the Navy in WWII, was influential in her decision to join the Army. He died last September.

Ashley Smilowski smiles as she poses for a picture with her grandmother Rosemary Sines after her graduation from Hanover-Horton High School at the Potter Center at Jackson Community College.

A tear rolls down Ashley's face as she hugs her friend Sarah Merrill while Darcey Ambs looks on from behind. July 31st was the last day she saw her friends and family before heading off to the Lansing MEPS center for processing.

Ashley Smilowski stands at attention during formations in the JROTC program at the Jackson Area Career Center.

Added at 9:23 pm on January 15, 2012, by . Filed under Jackson Citizen Patriot