FORT KNOX, Ky. –
A Ph.D. out in the country. That’s what Pvt. Mia Spratley wants to be, and that’s why she’s now in the U.S. Army.
The self-proclaimed city girl from Cincinnati, Ohio, enlisted into the Army Reserve in February. She is not scheduled to attend basic training until August, but Army Reserve Soldiers gain rank right away. Spratley will don a uniform and earn a paycheck for reporting to her unit in Trenton, Ohio, well before she leaves for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
After basic, Spratley will remain at Leonard Wood and learn to be a horizontal construction engineer, the Army title for Soldiers who operate massive machinery like excavators and bulldozers. What made the 24-year-old esthetics (beauty school) student sign up to spend 18 weeks mostly in the dirt?
“I want to farm,” she said, “and I want to build it from the ground up.”
The digging in, starting anew, has already begun. Spratley’s enlistment came with a $7,000 bonus, $100-per-paycheck bonus, and $30,000 for student loan repayment. Add that to her GI Bill benefits and she has the recipe for her “biggest reason for joining” the Army: getting a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology.
Spratley initially went to college after graduating high school in 2014, but paying other bills meant she had to drop out. She later went to “all types of trade schools” and landed all types of jobs, including state tested nursing assistant, bartender, licensed massage therapist and daycare owner.
It was during a normal day at her daycare, back in late 2019, when the sudden urge to get back to college came over her. “Okay, it’s time to get back to your plan,” she told herself.
The more she thought about it, the more she realized that plan had many parts. Yes, she wanted that Ph.D., and the quiet place in the country away from city life. But number two on her priority list was experience, the kind that doesn’t necessarily come from text books.
“I definitely want to be more well-rounded in the world I live in,” Spratley said. “And of course, I want to travel…it’s time for me to spread my little wings.”
Military service had been bouncing around in the back of Spratley’s mind for a while. She knows it was there soon after high school, when her close friend went into the Air Force.
“I’ve been watching her these last six years,” she said, “and how she (was) able to live her life and still serve her country at the same time.”
It didn’t take long for Spratley to let her friend know she was officially a Soldier after her oath of enlistment. And it didn’t take long for Spratley’s initiation into some traditional, friendly rivalry. First came the congratulations.
“And then I get another text that said, “Go Air Force,” Spratley recalled. “I was like, ‘No. Hooah!’”
Her Army journey has just begun. Enlisting has given her a fresh start. And with a spring and much of summer still between her and the Missouri mud, Spratley is focused on her esthetics education. She even hopes to soon open her own spa. Ambition is something she is never short on.
“Some people say I have too much,” she said. “I’d rather have too much than not enough.”