For 75 years, Ohio University's ROTC programs have trained students for military careers, contributing to OU's first-ever military-friendly recognition for 2011. The university offers both Army and Air Force ROTC chapters, and has done so since 1936 and 1948, respectively.
Last year, more than 30 percent of Army ROTC seniors graduated as Distinguished Military Graduates. This honor recognizes the top 20 percent of cadets in the nation. Also, OU's cadets "had the highest overall performance of any school in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky," according to OU's Army ROTC website.
One of this year's graduating seniors in the Army ROTC, Cadet Capt. Ethan Dick, earned the title of Distinguished Military Graduate. He won this title by acing the Leader Development Assessment Course (LDAC), which all cadets must pass in order to graduate as an officer. Dick referred to it as the "standardized test" for the Army ROTC that evaluates cadets in 16 different dimensions of leadership.
The LDAC is only one of the challenges cadets must overcome in order to graduate as an Army officer. Dick explained that GPA, physical training scores, extracurricular activities, foreign language and community service are all factors taken into consideration when evaluating a cadet.
Those with passing scores make it on the Order of Merit List, which places cadets in Active Duty, Army Reserve or National Guard. Cadets with higher scores are more likely to receive the branch that they requested, such as engineering or infantry. After graduation, Dick said he hopes to serve his active duty as a military intelligence officer.
Dick said OU's ROTC success is due to highly experienced cadre, or teaching staff, who come from decades of experience. "Also, we have great facilities," he added. "Our own land navigation course requires us to navigate deep in the woods with just a compass and a map. Other schools do it in tiny parks or football fields."
While many OU students know that ROTC can pay for college, there are many other benefits as well, such as travel opportunities and training programs. Some of the training programs offered in the Army ROTC program include airborne school, air assault school and mountain warfare.
Though the Air Force ROTC is a much smaller program than the Army ROTC, Cadet 1st Lt. Brooke Betit said the Air Force program at OU has been working hard to reach its goals of exceeding national averages. The Air Force equivalent of the Army's LDAC, or "standardized test," is Field Training, which evaluates cadets in many aspects such as marksmanship, survival training and physical training.
"Last year at Field Training we had a lot of people score in the middle and a couple at the top," Betit said. "Our goals focus on more preparation for Field Training, and to have more cadets with top scores in areas such as physical training."
Betit explained that other factors for graduation include the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, GPA, academic major, physical training score and the Detachment Commander's rating, which is evaluated by the officer in charge of their daily operations.
Betit said students at OU may not know the Air Force program exists because of how small it is, but she recommended it. "I've learned so much about who I am as a leader," she said. "It's made me more disciplined, have better time management skills and given me more confidence. Also, this program gives students job security."
Betit will graduate this year and serve four years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs officer. There are many different career paths for graduating officers, such as an air battle manager, a pilot, or a space and missile operations officer.
Both Dick and Betit agreed that ROTC requires hard work, but that it can be a lot of fun, too. The Army ROTC does an annual Halloween run, where they run on campus starting at 6:15 a.m. in their costumes. The Army ROTC also worked on a project last spring and built an outdoor workout park open to the community.
Some of the fun activities the Air Force ROTC does include a Combat Dine-In, an informal social that has obstacle courses, and a "mobex" activity, where they go paintballing in a "deployment-like atmosphere." Also, both ROTC programs are hosting a blood drive in November, Betit said.
Dick and Betit confirmed that OU students do not have to be freshmen to join ROTC; it's possible to join later in your college career. Also, unlike the enlisted military, students who join ROTC are not contracted into it. If students begin training and decide against it, they have the option to leave before advancing in their training. Otherwise, OU ROTC graduates go on to serve, starting as second lieutenants, in various branches of the U.S. Army and Air Force.