25 Years of Women at VMI

Srikongyos ’15:
“Find Your People”

Nattachat “Nina” Srikongyos ’15 smiling

Nattachat “Nina” Srikongyos ’15 graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School in November 2017.—Photo courtesy Srikongyos.

In November 2017, Nattachat “Nina” Srikongyos ’15 became the first VMI alumna to graduate from Army Ranger School and the eighth woman ever to succeed at one of the Army’s most demanding courses.

It would be a memorable and praiseworthy accomplishment for anyone, but even more so considering that Srikongyos didn’t enter VMI with the goal of commissioning in the Army, much less attending Ranger School.

Track and field brought Srikongyos to VMI from Springfield, Virginia. Initially, she signed up for Air Force ROTC. The demands of her biology major made it hard for her to keep her grades up. In the spring of her 3rd Class year, she switched to Army ROTC.

At the time, Srikongyos was nursing a running injury. She couldn’t travel to competitions with the track team, so she asked if she might attend the spring field training exercise with Army ROTC. She didn’t know it at the time, but asking that question would change her life. At Fort Pickett, near Blackstone, Virginia, Srikongyos was given a chance to be team leader—and it was a magical moment.

“It was just awesome,” she stated. “For some reason, everything just clicked.”

Soon after returning from FTX, Srikongyos was offered a two-year Army scholarship, which she eagerly accepted. “I stepped away from NCAA and just dove into everything Army,” she commented.

At first, Srikongyos thought of sticking with her original plan of attending medical school after VMI and commissioning in the Army Reserve. Then, she had a change of heart, realizing that she wanted to be on active duty.

Srikongyos branched chemical and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. When she arrived at her first duty station, her operations officer began asking all the newly arrived second lieutenants: “When are you going to Ranger School?”

“I had set in my mind that no matter what, I was going to finish. … I was not going to willingly just quit. That was not an option.”

Nattachat “Nina” Srikongyos ’15

Srikongyos tackled the 61-day challenge of Ranger School like she did with challenges at VMI: Head-on and with a fierce determination. The course, which is designed to test a potential Ranger’s physical and mental toughness, includes a variety of challenges—among them, obstacle courses, military mountaineering, and navigation through the Florida swamps.

“I had set in my mind that no matter what, I was going to finish. … I would literally have to collapse and die for me to leave this place,” she said of her experience. “I was not going to willingly just quit. That was not an option.”

Since leaving the Army in March 2020, Srikongyos earned an advanced biomedical sciences degree from George Mason University. She’s currently working toward a Master of Science degree in physiology at Georgetown University with plans to apply to medical schools. She’s also a medical scribe at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia.

Srikongyos attributes her confidence, poise, and coolness under fire to VMI and learning from leaders and peers throughout the Army. She’s accustomed to being one of a small handful of women, or sometimes the only female, in the room.

“Standing my ground and knowing how to operate and communicate in those situations helps me not be shy when I’m a foot shorter and 100 pounds [lighter] than everyone else,” she observed.

In March 2022, the 100th woman graduated from Ranger School. Of that 100, 2% are VMI graduates: Srikongyos and Samantha “Sam” Shepherd ’18. The two are friends and keep in touch regularly.

VMI, said Srikongyos, “teaches you to always find that joy and always find your people no matter where you are, and I think that’s helped me a lot in everything that I do.”

  • Mary Price

    Mary Price Development Writer/Communications Specialist

    The development writer plays a key role in producing advancement communications. This role imagines, creates, and produces a variety of written communication to inspire donors to make gifts benefiting VMI. Utilizing journalistic features and storytelling, the development writer will produce content for areas such as Annual Giving, stewardship, and gift planning.