ROTC program preps students for military

Students are considered commissioned officers upon finishing the program.

Kevin McCahill

With the country embroiled in conflict, the University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs have become a job security plan for some and a major problem for others.

The ROTC programs, housed in the University armory, offer students training and jobs for those interested in the military. Programs are available in the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force divisions.

According to Karley Amidon, the unit administrative officer for the Air Force ROTC, many high school students can receive a full college scholarship if they join the ROTC, and some students receive a stipend as part of the four-year program. Students can enter as late as their junior year of college.

“It’s an excellent way to become a commissioned officer in the Air Force and learn about the military and at the same time have a typical college experience,” Amidon said.

After entering the third year of the program or receiving a scholarship, students are considered contracted to the armed forces. Students must maintain a 2.0 grade point average to receive their scholarship, and if they finish the program they are considered a commissioned officer, she said.

Lt. Vince Peeler of the Navy and Marines ROTC said approximately 80 students are in the group, with 70 holding scholarships.

When students graduate from the Navy ROTC program they serve active duty in the armed forces and go into one of three warfare specialties: surface warfare, aviation or submarines. Most students will find themselves in flight school or aboard a submarine, Peeler said.

“There are no real desk jobs for us,” he said. “A student could graduate in May and by January be anywhere in the world.”

But with the recent rise in public opinion against the war in Iraq and protests on campus, there are students who are opposed to war.

Although Amidon and Peeler said the ROTC groups haven’t received any direct student hostility, not everyone is in favor of the group’s on-campus locale.

“I’m opposed to the military presence on campus,” said Anti-War Organization League officer and mechanical engineering senior Chris Bassett. “This is a public institution and I disagree with (the ROTC’s) military agenda.”

Anti-war league members took part in the Nov. 2 walk-out and Washington Avenue Southeast march to a military recruiting center in protest of the war in Iraq. Bassett said he is opposed to military recruitment of students as well.

“If (students) want to join (the military), they can find it themselves,” he said.

But other students see it as a stepping-stone for the future.

Aerospace engineering senior Ben Kempen received an ROTC scholarship to attend the University after high school. As part of the Air Force ROTC, Kempen has plans to become a pilot and astronaut. After being in the ROTC for four years, Kempen plans to stay with the armed forces.

“I feel like I really want to serve,” he said. “It’s a calling at this point.”

Kempen said he has learned a lot of time management and leadership skills from the program.

Rather than facing opposition by the student body, Kempen said the opposite has occurred.

“I’ve had people come up and thank me for the job I am doing,” he said.

To be involved in the ROTC, students must take military-based and leadership courses each year. They also take part in physical training twice a week, Peeler said.

Peeler said the program teaches students ethics and leadership to prepare them for their careers.

“You are going to be leading people under tough circumstances,” he said. “You are responsible for people’s lives in this job.”

The ROTC is also part of the Living and Learning Communities offered to first-year students in residence halls, said Assistant Department Director Susan Stubblefield.