By Jeline Abutin
Students who are torn between pursuing a military career and a college career are able to merge both with the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Cal Poly Pomona.
ROTC is a program that strives to develop leadership skills, confidence and character in its participants through hands-on training.
“It’s pretty fun,” said San Hong, a second-year manufacturing engineering student who has been in ROTC for a year. “At first, it was kind of awkward because I didn’t know anyone, but now everyone is really friendly; it’s like a family.”
The ROTC program is an elective curriculum that accompanies cadets’ college courses. After earning a degree and successfully completing the program, cadets will commission as an active duty second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, the Army Reserve or the Army National Guard.
“The main benefit of ROTC is that it works for anyone, at least anyone that has an interest of going into the military as a leader and as an officer,” said Andrew La Riva, a fourth-year business administration transfer student who has been in ROTC for four years. “Someone who has the military set in their heart and their mind, like I do, can join ROTC and become successful in the training and leadership.”
Besides courses in military history and leadership, the ROTC program challenges cadets through tactical movement drills and mock operations.
“They put you in a lose-lose situations to see how you react,” said La Riva. “There’s been a few times where I even surprised myself. I was put up against a wall, but I thought of something that was really brilliant at the time, and I was able to complete something that otherwise probably wouldn’t be accomplished. That in itself makes me feel really good because in the future, if I’m ever put in those situations, I’m confident in my ability to make the right decision.”
Merging both military and college life is not an easy task. Cadets who are enrolled in the program have to keep up with both military and university standards. To be eligible for the program, individuals must be a full-time student with a minimum GPA of 2.5, pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, pass the Department of Defense Medical Physical and be a U.S. citizen.
“It’s certainly busy,” said Cameron Nardini, a fifth-year chemical engineering student who has been in ROTC for five years. “It adds a whole extra layer onto your college life. You have to balance that with your schoolwork, and a lot of us have part-time jobs. Having physical fitness training sessions, lab on Fridays and having military classes adds on a whole new layer of difficulty that you have to factor into your life. It’s definitely a bit of a juggling act.”
“Everyone has a lot on his or her plate,” said La Riva. “You don’t really have a choice, especially when you do a leadership position. They go in two-week intervals. Those two weeks could be the two weeks you have all your midterms, studying and lab reports due at the same time. That’s one of the big challenges.”
The ROTC program also offers cadets the opportunity to receive scholarships as well as priority registration each quarter.
Academic scholarships are awarded based on scholar, athlete and leader merits. They can be awarded as a two, three or four-year scholarship option, full-tuition or room and board scholarship for $10,000 per year, a book allowance of $1,200 per academic year or a monthly stipend of $300 to $500.
Although the program provides financial assistance, cadets involved in the program receive lifelong benefits that prepare them for future success.
“Since it takes a lot of time, ROTC gives students a chance to manage their time better,” said Hong. “There’s also no way you won’t be fit since we do physical training three times a week.”
“It’s very good for building discipline,” said Nardini. “I’ve met great people in the program and developed good discipline and good leadership skills through it; I think it’s been highly beneficial.”
Despite the benefits of joining ROTC, it is not an easy program, according to La Riva.
“It’s supposed to be hard,” said La Riva. “The program is not designed for your average person to come in and nonchalantly walk through the program. It is designed for those types of people to develop themselves and become leaders of character, but if they don’t put in the effort, it won’t be a good ending for them.”
Courtesy of CDT Anthony Zhou
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