The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based program for training commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces. ROTC officers serve in all branches of the U.S. armed forces (although the U.S. Coast Guard does not have its own ROTC program, graduates of ROTC programs do currently serve as Coast Guard officers). In 2010, ROTC graduates constituted 38.5 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Army officers, 1.8 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Marine Corps officers, 16.7 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Navy officers, and 38.1 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Air Force officers, for a combined 30 percent of all active duty officers in the Department of Defense commissioned that year. Under ROTC, a student may receive a competitive, merit-based scholarship, covering all or part of college tuition, in return for an obligation of active military service after graduation. The U.S. Coast Guard offers a similar program to ROTC under a different name: CSPI (College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative). In addition, although the U.S. Coast Guard does not have an ROTC program, direct commissions are available for ROTC students at select colleges and universities, for ROTC graduates transferring branches, as well as for qualified military pilots. ROTC students attend college like other students, but also receive basic military training and officer training for their chosen branch of service through the ROTC unit at or nearby the college. The students participate in regular drills during the school year, and extended training activities during the summer. Some of the summer training that is offered to cadets in the Army ROTC program are: Airborne, Air Assault, Mountain Warfare, WHINSEC, and other related schools. Army ROTC units are organized as brigades, battalions, and companies. Air Force ROTC units are detachments with the students organized into wings, groups, squadrons, and flights. Army and Air Force ROTC students are referred to as cadets. Navy ROTC units are organized as battalions, and also include NROTC students under "Marine Option" who will eventually be commissioned as officers in the Marine Corps. Marine NROTC students may be formed in a separate company when the program includes sufficient numbers. All Navy ROTC students are referred to as midshipmen.
The term of obligatory service varies based on the type of commission the cadet or midshipman receives, as well as any scholarship contract signed. They can serve as active duty or in a reserve status. Additionally, a cadet on active duty can receive either a regular appointment or a reserve appointment. This affects the required years, as well as how many must be completed on active duty, in an active reserve capacity, or in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Under federal law, graduates of an ROTC scholarship program incur a four-year active duty service obligation (ADSO) and an eight-year MSO (military service obligation) if they accept a commission as a regular officer. Recipients incur an eight-year MSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component. Finally, recipients incur at least a six-year MSO and up to an eight-year ADSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component with at least two years of active duty. Army ROTC students who receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course must agree to complete an eight-year period of service. This can include three years active duty (four years for scholarship winners), with the balance in the IRR.
The service obligation for a Navy ROTC student is five years in the Navy, or four years in the Marine Corps.
The active-duty service obligation for an Air Force ROTC student is four years, or six years for Combat Systems Officers or Air Battle Management officers, or ten years for pilots.
The concept of ROTC in the United States began with the Morrill Act of 1862 which established the land-grant colleges. Part of the federal government's requirement for these schools was that they include military tactics as part of their curriculum, forming what became known as ROTC. The college from which ROTC originated is Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Norwich was founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.
Until the 1960s, many major universities required compulsory ROTC for all of their male students. However, because of the protests that culminated in the opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, compulsory ROTC was dropped in favor of voluntary programs. In some places ROTC was expelled from campus altogether, although it was always possible to participate in off-campus ROTC.
In the 21st century, the debate often focuses around the Congressional don't ask, don't tell law, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and in force until 2011, which forbade homosexuals serving in the United States military from disclosing their sexual orientation at the risk of expulsion. Some schools believed this legal mandate would require them to waive or amend their non-discrimination policies. In recent years, concerted efforts are being made at some Ivy League universities that have previously banned ROTC, including Columbia, to return ROTC to campus. The Harvard ROTC program was reinstated effective March 4, 2011, following enactment of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.
Under current law, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element.
- The first are the programs at the six senior military colleges, also known as military schools. These institutions grant baccalaureate degrees (at a minimum) and organize all or some of their students into a corps of cadets under some sort of military discipline. Those participating in the cadet program must attend at least 2 years of ROTC education.
- The second are programs at "civilian colleges." As defined under Army regulations, these are schools that grant baccalaureate or graduate degrees and are not operated on a military basis.
- The third category is programs at military junior colleges (MJC). These are military schools that provide junior college education (typically A.S. or A.A. degree). These schools do not grant baccalaureate degrees but they meet all other requirements of military colleges (if participating in the Early Commissioning Program), and cadets are required to meet the same military standards as other schools (if enrolled in ECP), as set by Army Cadet Command. Cadets can be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Reserve/Army National Guard as graduating sophomores. Upon commissioning, these lieutenants are required to complete their bachelors degree at another institution (of the lieutenant's choosing) while serving in their units. Upon receiving their bachelors, ECP lieutenants can assess active duty and go onto active duty as a first lieutenant. Only the Army currently offers an Early Commissioning Program. In time of war, MJC's have played a significant role in producing officers for the Army. During the Vietnam war, the requirement to complete one's bachelor degree was not in effect. Therefore, upon commissioning, lieutenants went straight onto active duty.
One difference between civilian colleges and the senior or junior military colleges is enrollment option in ROTC. ROTC is voluntary for students attending civilian colleges and universities; however, with few exceptions (as outlined in both Army regulations and federal law), it is required of students attending the senior and junior military colleges. Another major difference between the senior military colleges and civilian colleges is that under federal law, graduates of the SMCs are guaranteed active duty assignments if requested.
U.S. Army ROTC
The Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) program is the largest branch of ROTC, as the Army is the largest branch of the military. Army ROTC provides the majority of the Army's officer corps; the remainder comes from West Point, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or direct commissions.
AROTC offers scholarships based on the time of enrollment in the program. Newly graduated seniors in high school can enter the program with a full four-year scholarship while college students can enroll later and earn a scholarship that would cover the remainder of their college career.
The two-year scholarship is available for students with two academic years of college remaining. An applicant for a two-year or four-year scholarship must meet the following requirements.
- U.S. citizen
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Between ages 17 and 27
- College GPA of at least 2.5
- Army physical fitness standard
The applicant must agree to accept a commission and serve in the Army on Active Duty or in a Reserve Component (U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard)
The four-year scholarship is for students who receive it out of high school or before entering college. The four-year scholarship can be extended with the same conditions to a 5-year scholarship if the major is in Engineering.
The two-and-a-half-year scholarship is available for students already enrolled in a college or university with three academic years remaining.
An applicant for a two-and-a-half-year scholarship must meet the requirements for a two-year scholarship, and also have a minimum SAT score of 920 or ACT score of 19
Once an applicant has shown interest in the AROTC program the cadre can select him for a scholarship if he/she excels in the three major pillars. 1. Grades- 2.5 GPA or better 2. PT- score of 60 in each category (push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run) 3. Participation- extracurricular activities in the program, community, or school Before a cadet goes through commissioning, he/she must past LDAC between their summer of becoming a senior. LDAC (Leadership Developmental and Assessment Course) is held in FT. Lewis, Washington, where each cadet will be evaluated on leadership skills. The course is set up for a month of training with other peers and evaluated by prior servicemen.
Based upon the individuals MOL will determine the options for commissioning and receiving Active Duty or Reserve Component. The higher the MOL score the likelier a cadet will receive their desired position as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926; in 1932, the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program. The naval NROTC program is offered at over 150 colleges nationwide.
U.S. Air Force ROTC
The first Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (then Air ROTC) units were established between 1920 and 1923 at the University of California, Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the University of Washington, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University. After World War II, the Air Force established ROTC units at 77 colleges and universities throughout the United States.
The Solomon Amendment denies federal funding to any university with a "policy or practice" that prevents the military from "maintaining, establishing or operating" ROTC on its campus. Such universities are allowed to require that ROTC adhere to the same policies as the university's other academic programs. According to Diane Mazur of the Palm Center, the military has withdrawn ROTC from a number of universities rather than adapt to those policies or accept extracurricular status. In her analysis, both the military and academe, as of the fall of 2010, preferred not to dispute the public perception that elite universities had banned ROTC programs. She wrote:
The military may be more comfortable when it retreats to parts of the country ... where universities don’t ask a lot of questions .... [C]olleges may also be more comfortable when they go along with the fiction of banning ROTC, because then they don't have to answer to people upset about "don't ask, don't tell." Everyone buys into the myth, but at the expense of military readiness. The military needs to return to the colleges it walked away from, and everyone needs to stop pretending that ROTC programs ended because of a ban.
Others argue that universities effectively ban ROTC by erecting procedural hurdles motivated by anti-military sentiment and objections to discrimination based on sexual orientation that only serve to "discourage their own presumably egalitarian, intelligent, and enlightened students from joining."
ROTC programs were subject to the military's ban on service by open gays and lesbians known as "Don't ask don't tell." LGBT students occasionally protested ROTC as a proxy for the policy. An act to repeal the policy was signed by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, and implementation took effect September 20, 2011.
Non-U.S. ROTC programs
Other national armed forces in countries with strong historical ties to the United States have ROTC programs.
- ROTC in Canada was raised as an independent training cooperative in 1974 with links to other ROTC training programs in the U.S. and UK.
- Officers' Training Corps for the British Army was set up in 1908. The University Air Squadron for the Royal Air Force and the University Royal Navy Unit for the Royal Navy are similar. Although all members are commissioned as Under Officers in their respective services they are employed on a territorial class B commission and there is no obligation to serve as a regular officer.
- ROTC in the Philippines began in 1912, during American colonial rule, with the creation of the first unit at the University of the Philippines. The National ROTC Alumni Association (NRAA) of the Philippines estimates that 75 percent of the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines come from ROTC.
- ROTC in South Korea started in 1961.
- ROTC in Taiwan started in the 1960s with training courses being severely reduced over the years as an experiment before it was implemented again in 1997.
Other countries have also institutionalized reservist training programs. Reserve Officer Training in Russia began in the 1920s.
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- U.S. Air Force ROTC
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