Graduating ROTC cadet Sarah Markosky poses for a photograph in front of the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft on display outside the California Science Center. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)


Engineering a future, USC ROTC grad rises to the challenge of pilot training

Sarah Markosky is an aspiring engineer and a pilot, one who isn’t intimidated by entering male-dominated fields.

June 02, 2021 Ron Mackovich-Rodriguez

Sarah Markosky grew up a coal country kid in Pennsylvania who loved sports and never considered the military — until one fateful night when her Air Force officer brother took her to a formal ball that changed her life and led her to USC.

“The keynote speech that night changed me somehow,” she said. “I began to see the Air Force as a way to have a world impact, a purpose. That’s hard to find at a young age, and the opportunities to travel along with the full scholarship — I couldn’t pass those up.”

She attended USC on a scholarship and spent four years as part of the ROTC 60th Cadet Wing, sometimes called the Airmen of Troy. The moniker is misleading, as nearly half the 105 cadets are female.

“Every woman is capable of doing anything in the Air Force, but a lot of women come into it feeling intimidated because it’s a male-dominated field,” Markosky said. “We’re moving toward more women becoming pilots, and I’m excited about that. I’m making a 10-year commitment. That’s something all of us — women and men — take into consideration because it affects when we might start families. I’ve talked to plenty of women in the Air Force who’ve talked to me about life and career balance.”

USC grad Sarah Markosky learns to embrace the uncontrollable

Markosky commissioned May 15 and walked in commencement at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum a few days later to celebrate her degree in industrial and systems engineering. Her parents are both engineers, career choices born from practicality for a pair of high school sweethearts.

“They both had other interests, but they needed to hit the ground running careerwise,” Markosky said. “They grew to love it, and they run their own firm.”

Despite an academic and career track with good long-term employment prospects, one that’s aligned toward success in the decades to come, Markosky does not necessarily consider herself a planner.

“If you plan, you get let down a lot, so I embrace what is uncontrollable,” she said. “I can be moved around in my job and I can lose a pilot’s slot. There are so many factors I don’t control. What I do control is landing a pilot job, doing my best and seeing where that takes me.”