ROTC numbers on the rise

Maj. Rick Williams from Youngstown State University's ROTC program.

Maj. Rick Williams

Ninety seconds is all it takes to change the direction of a student’s college career, and the enrollment patterns of an entire academic program.

Just ask Maj. Rick Williams, officer-in-charge of the ROTC/Military Science program at YSU.

Williams credits the brief presentation his sergeants made in front of the Student Orientation, Advisement and Registration Program for helping to increase the number of freshmen taking Military Science classes this fall semester.

“It was only 90 seconds, but it paid huge dividends for us because we were able to stand in front of all the incoming freshmen and their parents and talk about the scholarships you can earn through ROTC, all of the fun training that we do, and the fact that you graduate as a second lieutenant in the Army,” said Williams, who has been affiliated with the YSU ROTC since 2009.

“Just to be able to share our story with all those incoming freshmen, I think, is what caused that bump in our enrollment.”

The number of freshmen in the program jumped from 24 last fall semester to 31 this fall, an increase of nearly 30 percent. In 2008, 17 freshmen were enrollment. Overall enrollment has grown from 31 in 2008 to 42 last year to 44 this year, a four-year increase of nearly 42 percent.

ROTC, or Reserve Officers Training Corps, is the Army name for the academic program called Military Science. ROTC has been on the YSU campus since 1950 and has been tucked into the north end of Stambaugh Stadium since 1982. The program, which falls under the umbrella of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, has commissioned more than 1,000 officers into military service since its inception.

“When I interact with people on campus, they tend to think that I’m from outside the campus, but we’re an academic unit just like all the other academic departments on campus,” said Williams, whose father is a YSU ROTC graduate, as are some of his siblings.

Students who complete the entire ROTC program receive a Military Science minor along with their chosen major. After graduation with a four-year degree, cadets are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Army, the most junior officer, but it can be a start to a career leading the world’s finest military soldiers, Williams said.

Once enrolled, if students decide the program is not for them, or they do not get a scholarship, they can drop from ROTC with no service obligation to the military. Students are encouraged to stick with the course and compete for a contract. Only contracted cadets or scholarship winners incur a service obligation after graduation, Williams said.

Freshmen joining the program are taught marching, customs and courtesies, basic navigational skills, time management, physical fitness and basic leadership skills. As cadets progress through the program, they are put into positions of leadership so that when they leave YSU, they are familiar with and prepared to lead a platoon, Williams said.

For more information, visit YSU ROTC online.

Story by Harry Evans