They promote social justice, but don’t fast or engage in sit-ins or protests; they preserve freedom, but don’t petition or lobby for legislation; and they develop passionate leaders for change, but don’t sponsor outreach awareness events.They are the students of Marquette’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and although the value of their dedication to social justice, freedom and leadership development may not always be clear to or acknowledged by the Marquette community, the commitment and calling of these students has a lasting impact.
Often spotted walking briskly in uniform or exercising early in the morning, the ROTC students are a visible part of campus. Despite their clear presence, does anyone really know what the ROTC program is about?
ROTC is a training program, integrated within many college campuses, intended to produce commissioned officers in the United States Military. ROTC is one of three ways officers are commissioned into the military, the other two including military academies and Officer Candidate School (the United States Air Force calls this commissioning source Officer Training School (OTS)).
The unique ROTC experience brings together not only the education, traditions and ethos of the military profession, but allows members to engage in and live in a civilian community, according to the 10 Year History of U.S. Army Cadet Command.
Marquette has three ROTC units on campus: the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), the Army ROTC and the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC).
According to the NROTC Web site, students can begin to consider ROTC before their freshman year at Marquette and apply for an ROTC four-year scholarship. Scholarships are awarded by all branches at Marquette, and include tuition, books and a monthly stipend. There are also two- and three-year scholarships, which are for sophomores and juniors who join after their freshman year.
In addition to Marquette students, all three ROTC branches at Marquette also bring in students from other area colleges, including University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Army ROTC: Learning to be Leaders
The Army ROTC differs in its focus of leadership development and programming. The national Army ROTC program was established in 1915, in the years preceding World War I. According to the 10 Year History of U.S. Army Cadet Command, “institutions of higher learning were the source from which the United States should draw the bulk of its reserve officer training corps.”
Those involved in Army ROTC must fulfill physical fitness standards and supplement their coursework with military science courses.
Lieutenant Colonel Clark Backus, professor of military science, adds that Army ROTC focuses on leadership development and familiarization with small unit infantry.
“We’re trying to train college students for leadership roles and opportunities, and the Army’s way to lead,” Backus said. “Understanding infantry tactics within squad and platoon levels is a piece that we’re trying to combine with leadership experience by the times students are commissioned.”
When successfully completed, participation in Army ROTC leads to a commission as a second lieutenant with either full time service in the U.S. Army or part time service in the Army Reserve or Army National Guard.
As students progress through the program and take on leadership roles, they are evaluated on seven character qualities: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
“The leadership we’re teaching isn’t non-transferable,” said Backus. “It is not an indoctrinated leadership curriculum, but one grounded in behavioral science. The environment and technical piece might be different, but the application is the same.”
In addition to normal coursework and leadership training, Army ROTC students must complete physical training three times a week. The program also has several distinctive extra curricular activities, including a Bataan Memorial Death March, Cadet Rangers and Ranger Challenge.
According to the U.S. Army Cadet Command guidebook, the Army ROTC’s definition of leadership is “influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish a mission and improving the organization.”
The Army’s emphasis on leadership development is evident in the roles given to upper-classmen cadets. All lower classmen must participate in Leadership Lab, where cadets practice battle drills and learn some of the technical aspects of becoming commissioned. As students progress, they become responsible for planning and carrying out Leadership Labs.
After graduation, cadets are assigned to different branches to train for specific army positions
“To get into the branch you’d like, it can be very competitive, especially with what I want to do, which is aviation,” said Sam Thompson, College of Business freshman and cadet. “Grades are 60 percent of what’s considered, when you’re placed in a branch.”
Two of the four Marquette pillars—leadership and excellence— are also listed on the Army ROTC badge
“What Army ROTC and the University are trying to do is a good confluence of desires. Just as the Jesuits are service oriented, so are those in ROTC—they are serving their country. A lot of people at Marquette, whatever they believe, recognize that students are providing a service that should be admired,” said Backus.
In the midst of political conflict over military affairs overseas, Backus said he has only received positive feedback from the Marquette community.
“The faculty and students I’m in contact with express their support and admiration at what our students accomplish,” said Backus.
Although they may have a unique college experience, the average cadet has career goals and professional aspirations that aren’t so different from their peers.
“They happen to choose a calling that calls attention in a different way. It’s important to recognize that it’s a different commitment our country is asking people to acknowledge. The calling is this intangible, its not politically driven, but intrinsic kind of thing, not indoctrinated, and it ought to be acknowledged,” said Backus.
Air Force ROTC: Exercising excellence
Also an outpour of the need for military personnel during World War II, the Air Force ROTC gained momentum in 1946.
The AFROTC is another component of Marquette’s ROTC program and is focused on training, educating and commissioning officers in the Air Force.
One of AFROTC’s primary goals is to “recruit, train and retain America’s best young men and women to provide global vigilance, reach and power to our nation in the 21st Century.” AFROTC aims to cultivate an atmosphere where students can, “lead effectively at all levels – with decisiveness and concern for our people and provide an environment that encourages all our people to achieve personal and professional excellence,” according to the AFROTC Web site. Integrity first, service before self and excellence are three pillars of the AFROTC curriculum.
Like NROTC and Army ROTC, AFROTC also has fitness standards as well as specific training requirements, which can include summer programs and academic classes.
The Air Force also requires students to participate in leadership laboratories and assume specific roles in their groups within their Cadet Wing. The Command staff then oversees different Groups within the Cadet Wing. Each Group consists of underclassmen with a specific job to help the Wing function.
Joeli Anderson, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the AFROTC Recruiting and Retention Squadron Commander spends 25 to 35 hours a week involved with AFROTC activities.
“I am basically in charge of organizing and recruiting events and making sure we have personnel there. I also oversee that morale activities are run and planned well to further professional development within our Cadet Wing.”
AFROTC has its own extra-curricular activities to further develop leadership within the Wing.
“There are unlimited activities to practice leadership and communication skills in almost everything that you do,” said Anderson.
Although often a challenge, physically, emotionally, academically and spiritually, Anderson said that through AFROTC she has accomplished things she never would have imagined.
“I am ultimately a better leader, student, sister, daughter and person because of it. The training I’ve received and the way I’ve grown as an individual is amazing,” said Anderson.
Throughout her four years in AFROTC, Anderson has seen both sides of the spectrum in others reactions and views of ROTC.
“Yes, I’ve been discriminated against by peers. Yes, anti-military protests and conflicts have arisen, but I’ve also been thanked by a random stranger,” said Anderson. “What it ultimately comes down to is the fact that I am confident in what I am doing and through both the disrespect and praises, I still feel the call to serve.”
Naval ROTC: Cultivating character
Established in 1926, the national NROTC has grown to 57 units in 34 states. According to Marquette’s NROTC Web site, the Marquette NROTC tradition dates back to 1940 and was the first unit in the country established at a Catholic university. In the midst of World War II, the program was formed with the goal of being ready in the event of a serious national emergency.
There are three obligations for students involved in the program: intellectual development, physical growth and moral and ethical development, said Captain Jay Smith, commanding officer of Marquette’s NROTC. Just as Marquette emphasizes “cura personalis,” or care for the whole person, students in the NROTC program are expected to perform well academically, stay in good physical shape and develop as a Naval Officer.
“It’s a huge amount of responsibility placed on their shoulders at a young age,” Smith said.
Students accepted into the NROTC program come from a variety of majors, but must also take several Naval Science courses in addition to their regular course load.
Students enrolled in NROTC can choose a Navy or Marine option, and although both groups train and work together, their requirements throughout their years at Marquette and after graduation differ.
Students on a NROTC scholarship must serve four years on active duty, according to Marquette’s NROTC Web site. But while Navy students begin serving directly in the Navy’s warfare areas – including surface warfare, aviation, submarines and special warfare –Marine options will report to the Basic School to undergo additional training after graduation.
Before NROTC midshipmen are commissioned, much of their time at Marquette is devoted to leadership training and experience. Students participate in Naval lab once a week, which consists of drill and general military training. They are also encouraged to participate in extra curricular and service activities through NROTC, including drill team, color guard and field meets between battalions.
NROTC students also participate in a Prisoner of War-Missing in Action vigil, Veteran’s Day celebrations, Hunger Clean-up and Al’s Run. Participating in these activities builds a sense of camaraderie among the midshipmen. For College of Engineering freshman and Marine NROTC student Dominic Chiaverotti, this is especially true:
“We spend so much time together that we practically live with one another. It kind of feels like an extended family.”
As students progress through NROTC, there are opportunities to fill leadership positions.
“They do a good job of picking roles to suit different personalities and progressively giving you leadership roles,” Chiaverotti said.
Peter Schunk, Navy NROTC senior in the College of Business, is a Battalion Commanding Officer and acts as a liaison between the officers and the rest of the unit. He is constantly evaluated by his superiors to make sure he is fulfilling his role to the best of his ability. He also said Thursdays, the days NROTC wear their uniforms on campus, reinforces the students commitment to their role in the military.
“We really live what we’re trying to learn… uniform day is practice time in uniform for those days after college when we’re going to be wearing a uniform every day,” said Schunk.
Smith said the NROTC program directly applies to the mission of the university.
“NROTC is really a program about the values we share with Marquette. Our commitment to service correlates with the values of the university.”