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ROTC gaining in popularity

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2002

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 19:02

Since Sept. 11, more and more UCF students are striving to "be all that they can be" by enrolling in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.

Even though enrollment is higher than ever, John Ruzich, Professor of Military Science, said he doesn't think Sept. 11 is the sole cause. "Personally, I think the increase is due to better recruiting efforts and increased visibility on campus," he said.

Ken Sanderson, UCF's Enrollment Officer, agreed. "Since Sept. 11 there has been a noticeable increase in the number of applications," he said. "However, the increase is predominately students who've had military experience."

ROTC college programs around the nation are seeing the same trend. Nationally, enrollment in Air Force ROTC rose from 13,900 last year to 17,395 this year, according to a study found in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

There's no proof that the increases are linked to Sept. 11. Paul Kotakis, a national spokesman for Army ROTC, said it's hard to know for sure since researchers are still analyzing enrollment trends.

Regardless of whether or not Sept. 11 is responsible, student interest in the ROTC program at UCF has distinctly increased. Currently, there are 150 cadets participating in the program.

In 2000, 14 UCF officers were commissioned. In 2002, that number rose to 21. This is a major accomplishment, being that UCF's goal is to commission 16 leaders annually.

So why are so many students signing up for ROTC? Well, for starters, qualified students can earn two-year tuition scholarships. In addition, the ROTC program pays for all mandatory fees, provides $600 for books, and gives students $250-$400 a month for spending cash.

Another advantage for students is job security. 100 percent of UCF's newly appointed leaders are immediately placed into the workforce with an average starting salary of $37,000 for full-time employment.

Jose Guandique, a UCF alumnus, said that being a member of ROTC was also fun and exciting. "I would recommend this program to any student who wants to make friends and have fun while attending college," he said.

Guandique graduated from UCF in 2000 and is currently a Fire Support Officer for the 1-503rd Air Assault Infantry Battalion in Korea. He said that being a ROTC cadet at UCF prepared him well.

"I learned to treat others with consideration and honor," he said. "I also learned to take responsibility for my actions and decisions."

ROTC students train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:30 a.m. This consists of a full workout and includes push-ups, sit-ups and a run. Said Ted Howard, a graduate student and ROTC cadet, "The physical training meets or exceeds that of most collegiate athletic programs."

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, ROTC students attend class. They are taught fundamental leadership and military skills. On Thursday afternoons, the cadets attend a lab session. "Here we take all that we've learned in class and put it to practical use," said Howard.

Howard, like many other cadets, joined ROTC with the intent to become a commissioned officer in the Army. He said ROTC has helped him gain useful leadership and mentoring skills.

There's a reason ROTC programs stress leadership. "Leaders are seldom born with the innate qualities that inspire others to follow them," said Sanderson. "Instead, under the guidance of professionals, they learn how to lead."

Leadership is taught through hands-on experience. "The cadets develop their skills through leading groups in training events," said Ruzich. "I only help guide the juniors and seniors in this training process."

UCF cadets also learn adventure training, such as water survival, land navigation, rappelling and first-aid skills. Many students participate in community service activities and leadership internships with military units around the world.

All graduates of the UCF ROTC program have a commitment to serve in the Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard. Some plan to serve for only a few years, while others, like Howard, intend to make a career out of the Army.

Approximately 10 percent of UCF ROTC graduates pursue career opportunities in their academic discipline, while only serving part-time in the Army Reserves.

No matter what their chosen profession, Sanderson believes that ROTC graduates are well prepared to enter the workforce. "Students gain confidence, self-discipline and leadership experience—all prerequisites for future success in both civilian and military careers," he said.

"What makes our junior Army Officers so attractive to the corporate world," he added, "are their learned skills in decision making, computer application, effective communication, work ethic, and independent operation."

UCF's ROTC program is nationally rated in the top 15 percent of all programs. As the program continues to grow, so do the expectations of ROTC professors and recruiters.

"We are in the business of training and developing the leaders of tomorrow, today," said Sanderson.

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