Comet brings home Marine Corps honors

Heckenkamp in the Quigley, an infamous swamp used as a Marine obstacle course.

Computer science senior Jocelyn Heckenkamp graduated from Marine Corps Base Quantico in summer 2023 alongside 67 female graduates, considered the largest platoon of senior female candidates in history.

Heckenkamp had the highest GPA overall in the Platoon Leaders Course, or PLC, and graduated with honors. PLC is one of three methods of joining the Marine Corps as an officer, and it is the only branch that lets students complete training over the summer while still in college. Her award will also bring a Commandant’s trophy to UTD — which is the highest ranking general in the Marine Corps — for the first time.

“It’s definitely a huge honor,” Heckenkamp said. “And I was really surprised when they first read my name. I’m also really happy that UTD will be recognized as part of the ceremony that will happen later this year.”

Heckenkamp thanked professor David Murchison, an Air Force veteran whose honors reading class sparked her interest in the military. He has extensive history with the armed forces, having served in the ROTC at the end of the Vietnam War and then as a dentist for the Air Force for 30 years.

“She was a National Merit Scholar, so she had a great academic background, but then she’s heavily involved in sports, obviously with UTD,” Murchison said. “She’s a very well-rounded young lady.”

Heckenkamp also thanked Captain Frances Moore, the selection officer for Dallas and East Texas for the Marine Corps, as well as her parents and fellow Marines for supporting her throughout the years. Moore said that she was one of the few Marines who has ever graduated with honors.

“She doesn’t necessarily see [an obstacle] as a roadblock, she sees it as a stepping stone, and that mindset and that critical thinking and that ability to maneuver in space … it’s something that we don’t really see as often when people apply in general,” Moore said. “It’s like she knows what her ultimate end goal is.”

Marine Corps Base Quantico is a training ground that helps individuals develop strategies for U.S. Marine combat. Within MCB Quantico, Heckenkamp pursued the PLC course through two summers, with each summer session lasting six weeks. In 2022, Heckenkamp attended PLC juniors, and in 2023, she attended PLC seniors.

“I think grit and determination [is what] she personifies,” Murchison said. “[This is] what we look for in military officers in terms of potential for leadership.”

Heckenkamp has long wanted to serve in the military both for its higher purpose and for its travel opportunities. She also wanted to obtain a license to become a pilot, which is what drove her to choose the Marine Corps. However, this was not Heckenkamp’s first choice program; she applied to multiple colleges and academies with flight programs but was rejected for medical reasons. Despite these obstacles, Heckenkamp was accepted into one of the most elite military special forces in the U.S, which she didn’t expect.

“PTs [physical tests] were outstanding and her leadership skills,” Moore said. “Her ability to handle a variety of tasks regardless of the level of friction that they may cause in her day …That’s really what sets her apart.”

Heckenkamp qualified to start training in the Marine Corps after successfully completing several physical assessments, including a three mile run, individual performance in maximum pull-ups and planks, receiving approval from a panel of officers. In training, the performance of program members is evaluated in the areas of academics, leadership and physical fitness.

“If you don’t meet any of those standards, you are dropped, so PLC’s juniors are harder than seniors,” Heckenkamp said. “Over half of my platoon dropped out last time. But then for seniors, we started with 82 and 67 graduated, so it’s a lot easier to graduate from seniors.”

Now that she is back at UTD, Heckenkamp hopes to finish the year out strong. She is currently the president of the Association for Computing Machinery, which is the largest computer science program at UTD. Heckenkamp is also a senator of Student Government and currently taking an EMT to become licensed at the end of the semester. Additionally, this will be her last year with UTD’s cross country team.

“When I came to UTD, I was not quite sure what I wanted to do,” Heckenkamp said. “So I tested a lot of things. I had a computer science major, I was also a Spanish minor and had a music minor, which I still have. I was also in the pre-law program, and now I’m in the pre-med program.”

Although the course was physically and mentally challenging, Heckenkamp enjoys the environment of the Marines programs.

“It’s a super uplifting culture, and it’s just full of great people who are super motivated, and they’re always there for you,” Heckenkamp said. “So just in general, thank you to all the Marines I’ve met along the way, and I’m super excited to meet more in the future.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *