Alexius Thomas, of Blue Springs, Missouri, came to the University of Tennessee at Martin with a singular focus – to become a paramilitary operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Thomas, a junior this year, discovered this highly specialized career field while searching to “be more,” as she says.
“At first I wanted to be a cop when I grew up. Then I thought I wanted to be more than a cop, I wanted to be an FBI agent. But then I thought, ‘I want to be more than that,’ so I kept looking up stuff to be more,” she explained.
She stumbled upon the CIA’s description of a paramilitary operations officer, which includes international travel, undercover operations, and the training and handling of intelligence informants around the world.
In pursuit of this goal, Thomas is majoring in international studies with a concentration in strategic studies. She hopes this degree, combined with her participation in UT Martin’s ROTC program, will give her an understanding of international issues and military procedures.
“When I found that there was this other major where you could learn about other countries and the issues from different places, I thought that would be better for me to have a more international view,” said Thomas, who was originally studying criminal justice. “My favorite thing is learning about different problems going on in different countries and how that is affecting us. … It’s good to learn about what’s actually going on in other countries and how it’s going to affect us and why the government makes the decisions that it does.”
As a third-year cadet in the Skyhawk ROTC Battalion, Thomas has accepted a contract with the U.S. military to commit four years of military service after graduation from UT Martin in 2020. She plans to compete for active duty status upon graduation and serve as long as necessary to gain the experience needed to make the transition into the CIA.
“I ended up getting a three-year ROTC scholarship that started my sophomore year of college. … (ROTC) is very different than I thought it was going to be. You have to have a big command presence, and it’s a lot of things that I’m not,” she said. “I do like the challenge.”
Thomas is also a left-back defender on the UT Martin soccer team. She says juggling the hectic schedule of soccer practice and away-game travel with her schoolwork and ROTC responsibilities fills her calendar quickly, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It definitely keeps me busy,” she said. Thomas was recruited to the UT Martin team shortly before beginning her freshman year, and she made the decision to become a Skyhawk after already choosing a school closer to home.
“I like that (UT Martin) is a smaller school. It’s still a Division One (athletics) campus, but it’s smaller and more connected. … I’m really close with the professors and the teachers,” she said. “I enjoy it (here).”