To reflect a shift in the Army’s focus following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and a climate of global preparedness, the Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program reassessed the curriculum taught in their military science courses.
‘Over the last seven years it has become centered more on anti-terrorism and counter insurgency, as opposed to offensive tactics,’ said U.S. Army Capt. Brian McDermott, who is responsible for the key leadership duties for CSUN’s ROTC.
There is a key difference between enlisted soldiers, often joining the army directly from high school, and commissioned officers who have completed the ROTC program.
With the United States military now required to play roles worldwide not even conceived of prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, educated and well-trained officers are perhaps in greater demand than ever before.
The CSUN ROTC operates in close conjunction with the UCLA’s ROTC program and has been gaining steam in recent years. McDermott said the program does little recruiting and that most students seek out ROTC themselves.
‘ ‘There are the tuition and scholarship benefits, but some feel the calling, the need to serve their country and the leadership potential,’ he said.
Cadet Michael Graddy, the company commander and a senior at CSUN, is in his fourth year with the ROTC program. Graddy had several years of prior military experience before becoming attracted to the program, chiefly to help pay for school and to further his military service.
‘I enlisted after high school, and was deployed twice, in Kuwait and in Iraq. I finished my deployment and wanted to work on my college degree,’ Graddy says.
He has sometimes faced difficulty balancing an academic schedule, work, family life and the ROTC program.
‘I knew this was what I wanted to do and I am happy to be here. It can be done, it is just a little tougher than what a lot of college students go through,’ Graddy says.
Open to both men and women, the ROTC program seeks to stress academics first, life as a college student and young adult second, and military training third.
Cadets choose a major in the same way as any other CSUN student. The most common major choice is political science. Extra coursework is then done in conjunction with U.S. Army officers, primarily in military science, leadership training and physical fitness.
ROTC graduates enter the Army, Army Reserves or National Guard at the rank of second lieutenant. They then compete with other candidates nationwide for military placements and ultimately careers in their chosen field.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Jason Henke completed the program and earned his Bachelor’s degree from CSUN in the spring of this year. He is now stationed at Fort Brenning, Ga., where he continues his military training in the Basic Officer Leadership Course, Level 2.
Henke is working toward a career in the military police. Like Graddy, he served in the Army prior to enrolling as a CSUN student. He stresses that no amount of military science and fitness training can fully prepare an individual for the challenges to come.
‘The skills that you need to learn to lead officers are introduced in ROTC, but the real training comes later. It is a mainly overview and an evaluation for your leadership potential,’ Henke says.
Students can enroll in the program without making a service commitment to the military, then make a decision as to whether they wish to pursue a career as an officer.
‘Our doors are open. Students are free to try it out for one semester, or up to two years to see if they like it. We are open to offering leadership labs to departments. Feel free to contact us, we are open,’ McDermott says.
For those who continue on and those who have contracted to three years of mandatory service with the military from the onset, CSUN ROTC offers scholarships and other financial benefits. ROTC contracted cadets can choose between tuition scholarships or having their on-campus housing fees paid by the program.
Book allowances and cash stipends are provided to those who continue to complete the requirements. Academic tutoring and mentoring programs are also offered. Cadets must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to remain in the program.
Most’ ROTC cadets choose to remain in the program until graduation. In the spring, twelve graduating cadets were commissioned into the Army. There are now more than 40 enrolled.
Cadet Chris Hughes, in his first semester with CSUN ROTC, joined chiefly out of a desire to be of maximum service to the Army.
‘As soon as you put on that uniform, you feel like you are representing the best of the United States, that one percent who are willing to represent and serve their country,’ said Hughes.