Admit it: You’ve heard about the ROTC. You’ve seen the commercials. But just what is it, really? ROTC, the Reserve Officers Training Corps, isn’t the most well-known or well-understood group on campus. But Alex Bohn ’09 and James Murray ’10, members of the Army ROTC, can shed some light on the subject.
For Bohn, a business administration major, joining was all about the experience. “Hopefully, I’ll get lots of leadership experience. Officership looks good on the résumé,” he says.
Bohn’s participation in ROTC will allow him to enter the Army with the rank of second lieutenant.
For Murray, a history major, it was about the call of duty. “While different people in the United States just complain about the condition of the Iraqi and Afghan people, I will be in a position to actually help them,” he says.
The goal of completing ranger school, one of several divisions that train Army recruits in highly specialized, rigorous military fields, was also a big draw for Murray. “Ranger school,” Murray adds, “is one of the most difficult schools in the Army. Only about 45 percent of the people who attempt it pass it.”
Bohn and Murray, along with their fellow ROTC members, can often be found on campus in their military uniforms. ROTC members are required to wear their uniforms on certain days of the week, Bohn explains. “The uniform is partly marketing,” he says but is quick to add, “I’m not embarrassed to project the image of an organization that helped bring this country to life.”
Many students have some misconceptions about the day-to-day life of ROTC-affiliated students. The Cornell Army ROTC (of which Ithaca College is an affiliated extension school) has physical training three times a week for an hour. This training, Bohn points out, is not like the boot camp depicted on television. Most training activities, such as running and weight training, are pretty standard.
“We’re college students,” he says, addressing aspects of life in the ROTC. “People think that we’re really hardcore, but we’re not. We live the college life. We go to parties and relax.”
ROTC programs sponsor their students’ college tuition, as well as books and other expenses, in return for a commitment to a certain time in active duty and/or reserve duty after graduation. Reserve requires training two full weeks per year and one weekend per month, as well as constant availability in case of a call to serve in the United States or overseas. (It is also possible to take ROTC classes without being a member of the ROTC.)
But what else do they get? “I have a guaranteed job after college. All my friends are going to be fiddling with their résumés, and I’ll get $49,500 a year with benefits in the Army,” Bohn points out.
Although neither Murray nor Bohn has decided to make the Army a lifelong career, both believe they are receiving valuable training as ROTC members. Murray in particular plans to use his Army training to find a job as a contractor or with the government directly.
“But that isn’t my primary motivation for joining ROTC,” he says, placing much more emphasis on the personal development he receives.
The Army’s commercials claim that serving in the Army changes you for the better. Murray believes it’s all about responsibility, and Bohn agrees. “ROTC is a leadership program. It develops you; it turns you into something productive, inside and out,” Bohn says.
“ROTC, for me, has improved my motivation to achieve goals,” Murray adds. “The knowledge that I will soon be responsible for the well-being and discipline of a platoon of enlisted men has these effects on me and most people in the ROTC program.”
Bohn concurs. “I’m more levelheaded than I thought I was. After graduation I have four years of active duty and four years of the Army National Guard or active duty if I want. And once I finally step into the workforce, I’ll have a lot of real-life experience that a lot of people won’t have.”
As for Murray, personal reasons drive him in his pursuit of Army officership. “I want the ability to say I stood up for what I believe in.”
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