KILLEEN — In the mid-1980s, Hungary was among a number of Eastern European countries struggling to survive under post-Stalinist socialism. For most residents, shortages of goods was common and what was available was limited. Many people left, and those that stayed did what they could to survive until living conditions improved.
Aniko Farkas, 32, was born in rural East Hungary during that time, the second oldest daughter in a family of six. By the time she finished high school, she knew what she wanted: Attend a military academy and become an officer in the Hungarian Army.
Having achieved the rank of first lieutenant, she was on deployment to Egypt when she met her now husband, Capt. Kevin Mussman, a 16-year veteran of both the U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army. Within a year, he was stationed at Fort Hood and they were married.
New to the United States and in the process of obtaining legal citizenship, Aniko deployed the discipline she had learned as an officer. She set new goals for herself, enrolling at Central Texas College to learn English. By Spring 2015, she had begun to attack the core curriculum for her degree, majoring in history, and earning an exceptional 4.0 gpa.
And even though she had completed officer’s training in her former country and served honorably, if she wanted to serve her new home country, she would have to make herself eligible.
In 2016, still a student at Central Texas College, she enlisted in the Texas National Guard, completed basic training and AIT and, by Fall 2018, began as an officer’s candidate in the ROTC program at Texas A&M University Central Texas.
In this new environment, she and her cadet classmates go to class twice a week and labs once a week, preparing for advanced camp and a five-week field training, including a lot of “ruck marches.”
By anyone’s definition, she was starting over, doing what she had already done based on her commitment to her new home country. Anyone else may have been bitter or debilitated by a loss of previous officer status and just quit.
But that’s not her.
Instead, she pressed forward with the same level of commitment that she had deployed the first time, leveraging for herself and her husband a new life in a new country.
When asked what that was like, she tilts her head slightly, resting the palm of her right hand against her face, smiling wistfully as long chestnut-colored spirals of hair cascade over her delicate shoulders and down her back.
Make no mistake; she is petite — at best 5’4 — but she exudes strength and an innate sense of purpose that is impossible to obscure.
“I went into military service in my country because I wanted to do something different than the other girls. I wanted to serve,” she said, her command of her second language complete.
This young woman, casually dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt, tennis shoes and sunglasses may have been decidedly out of uniform on a rare day out of classes, but she was in no way less than the embodiment of discipline.
She had, she says, just a few weeks ago, completed a competitive “ruck march” in the New Mexico desert, honoring the men who perished on the Bataan Death March.
She had always been a cross-country competitor, she explained, even while in high school, competing in ‘heavy runs’ involving more than just running. She competed, finishing a 26.2 mile course and packing a 40-pound Army issue rucksack that she could have folded herself into, sleeping outdoors and rising before dawn just to begin.
The course in New Mexico was on the White Sands Missile Range. And it was far from an ideal course — deep sand and uneven terrain with sand pits.
“It was running forward, but every step felt like I was walking backwards,” she explained. “The sand is so loose, it barely holds the weight of the body, and it’s a constant struggle to stay upright, much less run.”
But Aniko and 8,700 people competed that day, divided into categories by gender, competitive levels and age. Aniko, representing A&M Central Texas, finished first in the 30-39-year-old category for ROTC Individual Female Heavy, completing the ruck in 6 hours and 49 minutes.
Her time might have been better, she admits, confessing that she had to stop to rest at mile 13 and every four miles after that.
Capt. Jesus Soto, assistant professor of Military Science, praised Cadet Farkas, quickly pointing out that there isn’t a quitter among the 48 officers candidates in the university’s ROTC program.
“Like anyone else, these cadets each have unique strengths, but their greatest strength is the way they work together as a unit. They all have the same reason for being here, and it isn’t just to be an officer. They are here because they want to serve their country,” he said
A relatively private person, Aniko wasn’t immediately comfortable with being in the media spotlight — uncertain about the significance of just doing what she loves.
She’s an officer candidate, a woman, a competitive athlete and a history student at A&M Central Texas. And she’s looking forward to graduation in May 2020 when she’ll be commissioned.
She’s lucky to have the support of so many around her, she observes. From husband and friends to military mentors and A&M Central Texas history professors.
“You have to do your best,” she said simply. “In whatever you choose to do. You have to try. And then you have to do your best.”