At ROTC barbecue, students eat the dogs but decline the training

Dylan Thomas

Despite growing enrollment in ROTC nationwide, most students attending Tuesday’s free barbecue at the Armory were there for the free hot dogs and a look at a Humvee, not to sign up for the officer training program.

Although a variety of factors influence the decision to join ROTC, students seem less motivated by patriotism than increasing their marketability in an uncertain economy, said 2nd Lt. Jason Murphy, assistant recruiting officer.

“Believe it or not, you would think that 9/11 would have brought more people in looking to the ROTC,” Murphy said. “But in fact, recruitment almost immediately following 9/11 dropped off.”

Despite the lack of interest at the barbecue, a slow economy has increased the numbers of new cadets, he said.

“With the economy being down, the available choices to the new high school senior or college freshman don’t seem as endless as they did in, say, the mid-90s,” Murphy added.

The military is an attractive option for students because they leave with money, experience and leadership skills that will help them in corporate America, he said.

Wearing a gray army T-shirt and watching over a table of buns, condiments and drinks, Murphy said that events like this usually attract only a “handful” of people interested in joining ROTC.

Students in the ROTC program take a full load of classes, in addition to military studies and physical training. In return, ROTC offers scholarships and officer positions upon graduation.

People are often reluctant to commit at first, Murphy said, but some of those that show interest at events like this eventually end up in his office. The recruiting process is normally slow, which creates a relaxed environment for prospective ROTC recruits.

Kyle Busack, a freshman nursing student, was one of those considering joining ROTC. Busack went through army basic training at Fort Knox over the summer and said he was weighing the benefits of the program.

Busack said the scholarships were important, but other factors also helped his decision.

“The biggest (benefit) for ROTC is the camaraderie around here,” said Busack. “We had a few cadets down in basic who said it takes a lot of time, but you also made a lot of friends with it,” he said.