May 11, 2004
Participation in ROTC steadily increases nationwide since 9/11
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Heightened patriotism after terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 is among several reasons cited for a steady growth in participation in ROTC programs across the nation.
At Purdue University, which has one of the country's largest Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs at a non-military institution, enrollment and commissions have steadily increased since 2001.
"We've had a steady increase in the last four years," says Lt. Col. Clifford J. Wojtalewicz, commander of Purdue's Army ROTC Boiler Battalion. "There is a strong patriotism factor in the increase, the financial benefits have gotten better and the Army is getting the word out that we teach world-class leadership skills. The training the cadets receive for use in the military can be just as easily applied in the civilian sector. The military ROTC is an organizational leadership training ground."
Purdue's combined ROTC enrollment for the 2003/2004 academic year is 454 in its Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps programs. National ROTC enrollment and commissioning statistics are consistent with those at Purdue, with steady increases since 2001 at nearly 300 colleges and universities, according to national ROTC sources.
Lt. Cmdr. Scott Allen, public affairs officer for the Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., said applications to the Navy and Marine Corps ROTC programs around the country have increased by more than 12 percent each year since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our numbers had been holding steady and then jumped 13.7 percent in the 2001-2002 academic year," he said. "In 2002-2003 we saw an additional 12.2 percent, and in 2003-2004 we increased another 16.8 percent."
Allen said he is not aware of a formal study that would explain the increase, but he does agree with the observations of Purdue's Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC program commanders that patriotism, benefits and leadership training are all contributing factors.
"The value of the education is another aspect, with what is offered in leadership training and technical skills," Allen said.
Paul Kotakis, a spokesman for the Army ROTC programs headquartered at Fort Monroe, Va., said that at the 272 colleges and universities with resident Army ROTC programs, the number of students completing the program has grown steadily in recent years. In 2000 the program produced 3,180 officers. That number increased to 3,308 in 2001, 3,571 in 2002 and 3,954 in 2003.
"More and more young people are seeing that it's an excellent opportunity to learn managerial and leadership skills that may not be as easily obtained in other pursuits," Kotakis said. "Being an armed forces officer is prestigious, and ROTC is the largest single source of Army officers in the nation. The program has produced great leaders, such as Colin Powell."
Justin Grant, 23, of Decatur, Ind., a health and fitness major at Purdue, will be commissioned on May 14 as an Army second lieutenant in a joint forces commissioning ceremony with about 30 other graduates at Purdue. He will then start his four-year commitment to the Army as a field artillery officer. His short-term goals are to complete Ranger school and go into Special Forces. His long-term goals are to join the CIA and work in a position that uses the same skills he'll learn in Special Forces.
"I want to teach people in other countries how to improve their lives through modernization, protect themselves, have goals and dreams," he said. "And when the mission dictates, I may have to kick a few doors in. This is the life that I want to lead, and the one that will best serve my country."
In ROTC training through Purdue's Boiler Battalion, Grant was one of the first cadets to complete the combat diver qualification course, which until this year was offered only to active-duty Special Forces, Air Force Combat Controllers and Air Force Para-rescue. Forty-five cadets from around the country started in the program, but only 13 successfully completed it. Grant was one of them.
More than 80 percent of the ROTC enrollment at Purdue is in Air Force and Navy programs, which includes the Marine Corp., with the Army ROTC making up the remainder, said Army Maj. Christopher Hobart, Boiler Battalion cadet commandant.
"Those programs are larger because the training is more specialized, and Purdue offers the courses and majors that the Air Force and Navy require, such as nuclear and aeronautical engineering," he said.
Purdue NROTC traditionally receives between 25 and 40 scholarship students a year because of the quality of the education students receive and the technical reputation the university enjoys, said Capt. Will Jordan, chief of Purdue's Naval ROTC.
"The Purdue NROTC unit has a highly regarded reputation within the Navy and Marine Corps, the university and in the fleet," he said. "Although we are normally in the top five as far as our size, more importantly, we focus on the quality of the officer that we commission. Our ensigns and second lieutenants are among the best and brightest in the military today, and you will find them in the hardest, most difficult jobs throughout the world."
Purdue's Air Force ROTC has seen a steady increase in participants and was recently selected as the Northeast Region's "High Flight" winner (in the large category) for the 2002-2003 academic year, out of 37 detachments in the region.
"We are in the process of submitting another package for the 2003-2004 period," said Col. Ron Wright, professor of aerospace and commander of Purdue's Air Force ROTC Detachment 220 Cadet Wing. "This award is based on several factors, including education efforts, recruiting and retention, and cadet activities. The award-winning training and instruction these cadets receive is one of the reasons we have had a steady increase in participants in the last four years. However, the main factors are our cadets' enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism. They are truly outstanding Americans."
Col. Alan Thompson, commander of the Air Force ROTC at it headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., agrees with the reasons observed by the other commanders and credits some of the Air Force ROTC's success to two programs initiated in recent years. One is maintaining a balance in recruiting efforts between high school and in-college segments.
"Also, we unveiled a full-service Web site (http://www.afrotc.com) complete with an online application process," Thompson said. "These two initiatives have gone a long way to raise the interest of young Americans in AFROTC. Our goal is to make information on the program readily accessible and to prepare cadets to assume leadership roles in the military in support of our country."
Writers: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133, email@example.com
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Ann Easterling, Air University Public Affairs, Maxwell AFB, (334) 953-6371, firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Grant, (765) 474-9272 or (260) 223-0311, email@example.com
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Capt. Will Jordan, head/adjunct professor Purdue Naval Science, (765) 494-2055, email@example.com
Paul Kotakis, (757) 788-4610, kotakisp@Monroe.army.mil
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Note to Journalists: Journalists can cover the joint commissioning ceremony for Purdue's Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps ROTC graduates at 11 a.m. Friday (May 14) in the Purdue Memorial Union South Ballroom. No prior arrangements are necessary.
A publication-quality photograph is available at http://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+2004/rotc-sail.jpg
A publication-quality photograph is available at http://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+2004/rotc-scuba.jpg