Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

There are several routes an individual may take in becoming a United States Army officer. Everyone is well aware of the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point, but there are over 20,000 cadets enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps at over 270 public and private universities and colleges throughout the nation.

What value does such a program add to an academic institution? First, you must understand what the mission is of an academic institution, and that is to develop well rounded, educated, critical thinkers who become informed citizens.

Cadets enrolled in an ROTC program commit to a rigorous schedule of a morning fitness regimen, weekly small unit tactics, in addition to maintaining above average grades in their course work. Cadets are also required to take a diplomatic history class or a modern U.S. military history class before junior year, regardless of their major.

The goal is to develop adaptive leaders who embody the characteristics of critical thinking, discipline, and team work. These traits are extremely desirable for future leaders of the armed forces, or any corporation for that matter.

For example, General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, was a cadet in the ROTC program at City College in New York City. A wide range of accomplished leaders from professional athletes to novelists to governors and congressmen to university presidents were all former cadets.

In addition to ROTC instilling positive personal traits, it helps create academically successful students who give back to their communities. How else does an ROTC program benefit an academic institution in fulfilling its mission? Since the onset of our all-volunteer professional army there has been a serious disconnect between the civilian population and the military.

Less than one percent carry the burden of our nation’s defense, while many of today’s youth have no idea of what their role is in governing this institution. Students and professors who think the military is all about aggression, destruction, and death highlight a fundamental lack of understanding and appreciation of the U.S. military.

Indeed, the military does engage its war-making capabilities, but all too often it is tasked with humanitarian relief and peace-keeping duties. And those that associate the military strictly with its war making duties must realize that it engages this function solely at the direction of its civilian overseers the duly elected representatives of our republic.

The people you elected. So in essence soldiers go to war at your direction. Therefore, it is incumbent for the civilian population to be aware of the scope of their responsibilities as citizens.

ROTC addresses this disconnect by comingling cadets who are going to be future army officers with students who will be future civilian leaders. By having future military leaders interacting daily with the civilian populace, a better understanding and acceptance of the proper roles of the military is gained by the students.

[pullquote]The goal is to develop adaptive leaders who embody the characteristics of critical thinking, discipline, and team work.[/pullquote]

This exposure will also allow graduates to be aware of the necessity of a well-defined and effective grand strategy, which is to be implemented by civilian leaders and carried out by military leaders. The prime duty of our executive branch is to develop and execute the nation’s grand strategy.

The government’s primary function is to secure and defend the nation and its interests. Far too often the elected civilian leaders have been unable to articulate a cohesive grand strategy, or take effective measures to implement that strategy.

A more thorough understanding of the military role under civilian leadership will enable the electorate to select leaders who are capable of developing and implementing a grand strategy that will secure the future and prosperity of our nation. This undertaking is assisted through the presence of an ROTC unit on college campuses.

So, as you can see, an ROTC unit not only has a positive influence on its participants but also broadens the learning experience for the student body and assists the institution in attaining its goals of providing a liberal education.

Peter Arend is a third-year student majoring in history. He can be reached at

Author profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *