ROTC students look forward to serving the nation after demanding program
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 08:10
Tufts prides itself on attracting students dedicated to active citizenship. Few Jumbos, however, exhibit this ideal to a higher standard than the young men and women of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
Tufts’ ROTC program is hosted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and despite the logistical difficulties of heading to MIT nearly every day, a few dozen Tufts students take classes through ROTC each year.
Students participate in different branches of ROTC, including the Army, Air Force or Navy programs. Upon graduation, these students enter the military as commissioned officers of their respective branches, with Army and Air Force cadets achieving the rank of Second Lieutenant, and Navy midshipmen that of Ensign or Second Lieutenant if entering the Marine Corps.
Students at Tufts have chosen to join the military for a variety of reasons.
“My grandfather was in the Royal Navy, and his influence was my main reason for joining,” junior midshipman David Forsey said. “He was a major role model in my life, and his example pushed me towards joining the military. After he passed away, my desire to join remained, so I pursued it in college.”
The impact of coming from a military family was a sentiment many others share. For instance, junior Army cadet Robert Costa’s father served in the military for 31 years, influencing his decision to join.
For other students, ROTC’s merit-based scholarships, financial aid and money for books are also a huge draw, making increasingly out-of-reach college tuitions and living expenses possible.
Regardless of the branches students choose to join, ROTC students are all working towards the same goal: to serve the country. Getting there is no easy task, Forsey said, as participating in ROTC requires a significant time commitment — one that the average student would have a hard time imagining.
“ROTC is ... not something that can be taken lightly,” Forsey said. “I can only speak to what Navy ROTC does, but we train almost exclusively at MIT, usually four days a week in the mornings before class.”
On a typical weekday, Costa said he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to attend physical training at MIT alongside students from eight other schools, such as Harvard University, Lesley University and Wellesley College.
Costa acknowledged that ROTC life comes with a lot of responsibility.
“This year, I am a squad leader,” he said. “And it’s a big difference from being purely responsible for yourself to also being responsible for all the squad members and all the cadets that are younger than me.”
According to Forsey, taking part in the ROTC program has added a sense of discipline to his college experience.
“The best part of ROTC is the purpose it has given my academic career,” he said. “I came into school knowing why I was at school and what I planned on doing afterwards. I also came in knowing that I would be challenged by the program; this includes my leadership capabilities, organizational skills and time management.”
Costa agreed, explaining that ROTC has greatly affected his experience at Tufts.
“Waking up at 5:30 in the morning forces you to make decisions about what you want to do. You don’t go out as much; you stay in and get your work done,” he said. “Also, when you are doing something like ROTC, you represent something greater then yourself, so it makes you think about your actions.”
The challenges that accompany training to become the nation’s next generation of military leaders have not phased these ROTC students. Costa said it has been possible for him to participate in ROTC without missing out on everything else Tufts has to offer — he is a linebacker on the Tufts football team and a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.
“My coach is great about letting me do my ROTC training, and ROTC is great about letting me do football,” Costa said. “They work together.”
Although ROTC students have an idea of what they will do upon graduating from Tufts, the future can still feel uncertain. Forsey hopes to achieve the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, but is not sure what will come next.
“I have a four year commitment to them, and then I’m free to enter the civilian world or remain in the military,” Forsey said. “I have no clue what I’ll do at that four year point yet.”
With the United States embroiled in negotiations regarding chemical weapon arsenals in Syria, these students’ willingness to serve the nation is key to the success of the ROTC program. It was during an even more precarious time in our nation’s history that Tufts first founded its ROTC program.
Three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, then-President of Tufts Leonard Carmichael invited the U.S. Navy to launch the program at the university. Over 100 freshmen enrolled in September of that year, and by 1946, approximately 2,000 men had received their officer training at Tufts.
A major turning point in Tufts’ ROTC history came in 1969, when the Tufts faculty voted to ban ROTC from campus as protests against the Vietnam War reached their height. Tufts was not alone in this action; the entire Ivy League also ceased hosting ROTC programs.
Beside political disagreements, a number of other factors led schools to abort the program. For example, the military programs often did not have adequately qualified professors or failed to comply with the host college’s standards for course content.
In the early 1990s, the hype surrounding “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy setting out terms for homosexual service in the military and only recently repealed by President Barack Obama, gave liberal campuses even more reason to dismiss an official military presence.
At Tufts, attitudes towards ROTC began to shift in 2004, when the Tufts Community Union Senate passed a nonbinding resolution seeking to give midshipmen and cadets credit for the extra courses taken at MIT through the program. It was not until April 2011, however, that Tufts finally ended its Vietnam War-era policy and began to accept credit for ROTC classes and acknowledge ROTC on transcripts.