While a lack of military leadership and resources are generating discussions about reinstating the draft and instituting obligatory service for all young Americans, University ROTC and military education programs are continuing with business as usual.
Officials from the ROTC, a national program designed to train college students for careers as officers in the armed services, insist that the current political climate has little direct impact on the experience and training of students.
“It would take something of a global nature to change the way we do things on campus, but that hasn’t happened since the 1940’s,” said Capt. Dennis Hopkins, chair of the University’s Navy ROTC. “The need for officers isn’t changing such that we have to commission them faster or more often.”
Officers from the Army ROTC said the program is maintaining its course on a national level, and that the educational experience of the students involved remains the top priority. Upon graduation from the program, cadets are obligated to begin a term of service in the military.
“Our mission is to commission the future leadership of the Army. It’s always been like that and it will continue to be like that,” Joe Bartley, AROTC public affairs officer, said. “Our mission will stay the same. The cadets are students first.”
Students within the ROTC agreed that the nature of the program has changed little in recent months, but added that the attitudes of the cadets are affected by current events.
“Our battalion is making sure that we’re prepared this year, perhaps more so than in the past. Everything feels more real,” said Susan Nagel, an Army ROTC cadet and Engineering sophomore. “The really gung-ho people are excited because they’ll get a chance to serve their country.”
Enrollment in the ROTC and other military training programs has increased in recent years, but program officers refuse to attribute the growth to the possibility of war.
“We like to think that we offer a quality product and that more students are choosing the military as a career option. But if you ask 10 different people why that is, you’ll probably get 10 different reasons,” Bartley said.
Hopkins said interest in the Navy training program has also increased in the last three years, but that limited scholarship funding has prevented a significant growth.
“Our enrollment has been slowly climbing, but it’s based more on a finite number of scholarships that we can give each year. There’s been no dramatic change,” Hopkins said.
Former cadet Andrew Berg said his experience in the ROTC was excellent, but that the political realities of the time could not be ignored.
“I joined after Sept. 11 and people were excited. You knew that there might be action which maybe led to a sense of anticipation,” Berg said.