Friday, March 1, 2013

ROTC honored as one of top 8 programs in the country

By Alison Haywood, News Editor

Pacific Lutheran’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) officers already knew the senior class cadets were exceptional this year. Winning the MacArthur Award just confirmed it.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command announced on Feb. 20 that PLU’s ROTC program was one of eight programs to win the MacArthur award for the 2011-2012 school year, marking it as one of the most distinguished ROTCs in the country.

Cadet Battalion Commander William Mackey said winning this award was a big deal. "Every school in the nation knows which schools placed in the top eight," he said. "It’s just cool to know that PLU has the prestige now."

Cadet Command and the MacArthur Foundation have been honoring high-quality ROTC programs that emphasize the values of "duty, honor and country" since 1989, according to the U.S. Army’s website. The selection process is based on a variety of factors, including the program’s recruitment and retention rate and cadets’ individual achievement based on leadership ability, GPA and physical fitness.

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Shrader, a professor of military science, said the significance of the MacArthur Award is primarily a matter of pride and receiving recognition from across Cadet Command. He said the award may be taken into account when Cadet Command has extra funding to give out, but extra funds are not a direct result of the award.

Mackey said being in ROTC is a lot of responsibility in addition to being a student, as ROTC events require an hour every weekday morning, one Saturday per month and two full weekends per year of students’ time. "A lot of people can’t handle it," he said. "You really have to stay on top of your school work."

Major Angela Gentry, assistant professor of military science, said, "they’re load is
significantly different [than that of other students]. They’re not only a student, but — we call it — student, athlete and leader, and they have to excel in those three areas."

There are 273 ROTC units in the nation, which are divided into eight brigades based on location. PLU’s ROTC is part of the Eighth Brigade, which includes programs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.

Shrader described Eighth Brigade as "typically one of the best brigades in the nation," saying, "when you get selected from Eighth Brigade, you are really on top of it."

Gentry said she attributes winning this award to the cadets in the program. The program is distinguished by the peer-to-peer mentorship, Gentry said. "They [the cadets] spend their own time developing each other and encouraging one another and building and teaching outside of where we see them."

Cadets from across the nation attend a "summer camp" at Joint Base Lewis-McChord the summer before their senior year where they are evaluated on leadership ability and physical fitness. This score, in addition to their GPA, will determine where they stand in the National Order Merit List, a ranking system for cadets. Last summer about 5,700 cadets attended.

Shrader said 36 percent of PLU cadets received an "E" for Excellence in these evaluations, the highest score possible, beating the national average of approximately 16 percent.

PLU’s ROTC also won the MacArthur award in 2011 and in 2001. In 2001 PLU did not have its own ROTC program, it was a joint program with Seattle University, and winning that award prompted PLU to develop its own independent ROTC.

"Winning it twice in the last three years is kind of unheard of," Gentry said. "It just shows consistency in the quality of cadet that we’re producing."

Upon graduation, ROTC cadets are automatically commissioned to the rank of Second Lieutenant. "It’s an officer training program," Gentry said.