Natvig sisters committed to serving country through Army ROTC

SDSU Marketing & Communications
Posted 5/7/24

BROOKINGS — Following a family history of answering the call to serve, Catie Natvig was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant on May 3.

The South Dakota State University …

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Natvig sisters committed to serving country through Army ROTC


BROOKINGS — Following a family history of answering the call to serve, Catie Natvig was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant on May 3.

The South Dakota State University senior was preceded in the ROTC program by her grandfather, Virgil Natvig, and her father, David Natvig. There are two more Natvigs in the wings. Sisters Carlee and Kimber Natvig are slated to commission and earn their bachelor’s degrees in 2025 and 2027, respectively.

Catie Natvig expected 15 family members to gather May 3. For her graduation from SDSU on May 4, seating capacity at the Dacotah Bank Center limited graduates to six tickets per family.

Catie Natvig was among seven cadets commissioned May 3 in Lincoln Hall. It’s not a day she envisioned when she arrived at State in fall 2020.

The T.F. Riggs (Pierre) High School graduate said, “When I got to campus, I didn’t know anybody.” Her dad suggested that she check out ROTC. “‘It will be super fun,’” she recalled him telling her. Two weeks into the school year she did, and it was love at first salute.

“From the first day, it just felt like home. I arrived on campus during COVID. ROTC was the only thing I had in person. It was a good environment to be a part of,” said Natvig, who is a business economics major. She enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow cadets, the program’s accountability and the genuine concern of ROTC staff.

ROTC offers earn while you learn

Once started on the ROTC path, she never thought of leaving it. Her sisters are equally committed. All three received ROTC scholarships.

One of Catie Natvig’s favorite days on campus was in the fall of her sophomore year (2021), when she contracted into the military. Natvig and six other cadets were gathered at the ROTC obstacle course on the east edge of campus when Col. Jason Kettwig assembled them in a line and led them in the oath to serve in the U.S. Army.

In addition to the meaning of the moment, there was the oversized replica of a $55,000 check. For the next six semesters, she would be receiving a $6,000 per semester scholarship and a $420 per month stipend.

Kettwig, head of the detachment, said, “The scholarship opportunities allow students to come to school, focus on their major as well as the additional things of the military and not worry about paying for school or gas in their car. It gives them freedom to focus on school and military training.”

Law school in Catie’s future

Unlike most commissioned cadets, Catie Natvig won’t have immediate military obligations. She received an education delay to go to law school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. For the next three years she will be in the individual ready reserve, which has no military obligations.

After law school, she will apply for Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. If accepted, she will have an eight-year commitment.

Her interest in law began at an early age. As an elementary school student, she would go to the courtroom with her father, who is a lawyer. While never a part of JAG Corps, he currently serves as a civilian lawyer for the Department of Defense. In the military, he served as psychological operations officer and paratrooper at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Their mom and I are extremely proud of all four of our girls! I am grateful for the opportunity the youngest three have been given at SDSU and through Army ROTC. I am looking forward to Catie graduating from law school and serving her country as a judge advocate officer.”

Older sisters provided sneak preview

While it took a little encouragement for Catie to check out ROTC, Carlee and Kimber jumped in right away, partly because they had already been introduced to the detachment through campus visits to see their sister. “By the time I got here, Catie knew what was going on,” Carlee said.

Catie added, “By the time Kimber was a freshman, the cadre already knew her because she was hanging out.”

Kettwig said, “The Natvigs are a wonderful military family that values service. We’ve been fortunate getting to first know Catie and then getting to know her sisters. They are different, yet they all value service and have become great ROTC cadets and in the future will become great Army officers.”

Carlee, Kimber plan nursing careers

While Catie will be serving her country through the law, Carlee and Kimber are both looking at nursing careers. This summer Carlee will take advanced camp training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where for 35 days she and thousands of other cadets will “review everything we’ve learned for three years,” she said.

That includes shooting qualification and land navigation tests, tactical evaluations, completing repelling and obstacle course challenges and physical fitness drills.

But, as has been the case for three years, she is less nervous about the mandatory training than she would have been otherwise because Carlee has been peppering Catie with questions and asking for tips. Among the valuable insider notes she has gotten: bring a case for your map in case it is raining throughout the duration of the land navigation course.

After completing advanced camp training, Carlee will serve a month-long nursing internship at Fort Moore (formerly Benning), Georgia.

This summer Kimber will continue her work as a patient care tech at a nursing home in Pierre and in the fall apply for selection into SDSU’s nursing program.

‘I’m not just here for me’

Reflecting on her four years in the ROTC, Catie said it hasn’t been an easy experience, but it has been rewarding.

“When you’re out on a 12-mile ruck run at 3 a.m. or doing physical training at 6 a.m., you create your best friends …. At the end of the day, I’m not just here for me. I am here for my sisters, my friends and those I serve along with,” said Catie, noting that cadets try to keep up a 15-minute per mile pace while in uniform and toting a 35-pound backpack.

Cadets start out with a 4-mile ruck run and work up to 12 miles each semester.

In an average week, there is physical training three days a week from 5:45 to 6:45 a.m., sprints on Monday, lifting on Wednesdays and distance on Fridays; plus senior-led tactical training from 4:45 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and classroom sessions once or twice a week depending on the student’s grade level.

Sisters turned into best friends

This past year united three of the four Natvig sisters in a way they never thought possible. (An older sister is a Black Hills State grad.) Carlee said, “I almost went to USD (University of South Dakota) because I thought Catie and I would fight too much.”

They fought like sisters growing up, which was primarily in Kimball. “But our parents did a good job of keeping us together. They said some day you’re going to be best friends,” Catie said.

That day turned out to be school year 2023-24. Carlee said, “It’s nice just hanging out together. Being able to call and say, ‘Hey, do you want to go on a walk?’ Having somewhere to go when I need a break.” (The sisters live separately.)

Kimber added, “Having a sister there is different than having friends to depend on.”

Catie said she will miss not being there to cheer her sisters on in person. “I will have to do it through FaceTime and texting.”

She added that supplementing her SDSU experience with an ROTC family and her biological family has made college “the best time of my life.”