This post originally ran January 27, 2013 on The Works.
The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.
When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.
Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.
After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.
Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.
Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.
After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.
I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.
Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.
Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.
So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.
So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .
ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.