Max, a graduate of Mitchell High School, answers the call to service as an ROTC cadet, future medical student

Max, a graduate of Mitchell High School, answers the call to service as an ROTC cadet, future medical student

BROOKINGS — At some point, Carson Max had to make a choice.

As a student at South Dakota State University, he felt a little stretched. This is understandable given his workload. He was studying with a major in human biology with minors in chemistry, microbiology and aerospace studies. In addition to that, he was also a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) cadet and a member of the Jackrabbits baseball team.

Something had to give. So he walked away from baseball.

“It was really hard to balance my class schedule and baseball. Athletics evaporates so much time,” Max told the Mitchell Republic in a recent interview. “Sport is good, but at the end of the day it’s just a game, not my identity.”

It wasn’t necessarily an easy choice, but it was one that had to be made, Max said. The 2019 Mitchell High School graduate found that his time at SDSU strengthened his desire to pursue a career in medicine, and his time engaged with the campus ROTC program invigorated a desire to serve his country.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity to (play college baseball), but at the end of the day – we talk about it in ROTC – what’s your reason? My reason just kept getting stronger and growing. in college,” Max said. “(Baseball) didn’t fulfill that ‘why’ as much. You get a lot of great experiences, but at the end of the day, I lose a lot of other things that I enjoy.

As a successful high school athlete in wrestling, baseball, football, track and field, cross-county and weightlifting, it took some getting used to replacing a baseball uniform with an Air Force uniform. But it’s a change he’s glad he made, as it has helped him along his journey to help others by serving his country in the Air Force and serving his fellow man in pursuing medical studies in orthopedic medicine.


Carson Max, a student at South Dakota State University and a graduate of Mitchell High School, moved from college baseball to the Reserve Officer Training Corps and is looking to pursue a military career as a doctor.

Mitchell Republic file photo

As he nears graduation, he has applied to several medical schools and is looking forward to achieving a goal he set for himself even before he was a teenager.

“I was 12, I had a wrestling injury and I had to see an orthopaedist. And I walked out of there and told my mom I wanted to be a doctor,” Max said. “When I was 12, I wanted to practice medicine somehow. I just wanted to give other people the same experience I had.”

This inspiration led him to seek relevant courses when he attended Mitchell High School. This is where he focused on science, math, and STEM classes. He credits these with preparing him for the rigors of academics and easing his transition into what some students consider a daunting workload.

When considering a college education, he originally had Augustana University in mind to study and play baseball, but was approached late in the process by SDSU. He changed his mind and headed to Brookings in the fall and ended up participating in the ROTC program, something he had been interested in for some time.

“In my sophomore year of high school, I considered service academies because of a desire to serve. I found ROTC my senior year of high school and thought, hey, this is my chance to serve” , said Max.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a college program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities across the United States that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. military, according to its website. In exchange for paid college training and a guaranteed post-graduate career, participants or cadets commit to serving in the military upon graduation. Each branch of service has its own view of ROTC.

So he joined the Air Force ROTC and balanced his program with his college and athletic studies. It made for a very strenuous first two years of college, and eventually he reassessed the balance in his life and chose to stay with ROTC and give up his remaining time on the baseball team.

“(ROTC) teaches you a lot about who you are and what you’re good at. How good are you in individual situations? How do you handle a stressful environment? Can you receive comments and reviews? It builds you up and breaks you down,” Max said. “I’ve seen so much growth from it.”

Completion of the ROTC program means Max will officially begin his Air Force service after graduating as a second lieutenant with a four-year service obligation. But at this point, he thinks he’ll spend more than four years in the military. Through ROTC, Max got involved with the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which will pay for his four years of medical school at any medical school he can gain admission to. . The four-year medical school program would add another four years of commitment to his service time, which he is fully prepared to do.

“They are willing to pay for medical school in exchange for a military commitment. I do it through ROTC, so I went to a board that evaluates cadets. They will pay for four years, I will be made a second lieutenant and my only job will be to do well in medical school,” Max said. “So my work continues with more school.”

He’s already been accepted to a school and also has an application for the University of South Dakota which is an attractive option considering it’s in state, close to home and would make life easier for him. and her fiancé as they plan for the future.

No matter where he ends up, he knows he’s on a path he’ll find fulfilling.

“I’m excited about it. The way I like to describe it is that it’s an opportunity to be a doctor, I can serve people who serve our country while I serve our country. It’s a great calling to serve people and to put someone and something above yourself,” Max said. “I want to put myself in a role where I am of service to others.”

He will soon continue that service in yet another role – when he assumes the position of Wing Commander for ROTC at SDSU next semester.

It’s been a tough road, but he’s glad he got through it with the basic education he received at Mitchell High School and the support of fans along the way. He is quick to thank his detachment commanders and active duty officers who lobbied for him and his fellowship, as well as Dr. Martin Christensen, a retired Mitchell physician, former cadet and ROTC veteran, who served as a mentor as he explores medical school options.

Dr. Martin Christensen, Mitchell's longtime physician, recently retired after more than 30 years of medical service in the area.  (Matt Gade / Republic)

Mitchell’s longtime physician, Dr. Martin Christensen.

Republic File Photo

Christensen agreed that ROTC can provide great guidance and build character, and that Max fits his principles perfectly.

“Carson brings a lot of stuff. He’s a great leader,” Christensen said. “You build character and morals (with ROTC), and hard work pays off. He’s just one example. Going forward, he’s really driven. I think he’ll be fine.”

Of course, the teachers and programs at Mitchell High School and the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy also played an important role in its development. He said students there can find the same opportunities if they study and focus on finding out who they are and why they want to pursue their dreams.

He recommended that students challenge themselves with difficult coursework — even if that translates to a slightly lower GPA, pushing yourself will help prepare you for the academic challenges of college. Have a main plan but also a backup plan.

And, perhaps most important, know why you want to do what you want to do. He said once he got that part figured out, the rest was easy.

“Try to find your ‘why.’ Why do you want to go into a certain career field? Just try to figure out that ‘why.’ It helps direct your life so you know what you want and how to get there,” Max said. , in the end, it’s for other people. And there’s nothing I would want otherwise.

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