A couple things I need to add about MS I year…I’m often asked how do I join, or how do I apply, or what is the paperwork to join ROTC. There are a couple ways you can participate in Army ROTC during your first year of college. Obviously one of the most desirable ways is if you win a 4 year scholarship while in high school, but that isn’t the only way. Scholarship winners will be expected to make a commitment, and we will talk about the commitment in future posts. You can also participate in the class with no obligation. This is one of the most misunderstood things about Army ROTC. ANYONE can take ROTC class in their first two years of college WITH NO OBLIGATION. At Clarkson I am always checking to see if a cadet is ready to make the commitment, or if they are not. I don’t pester or harass, but I make sure that each cadet is able to make an informed decision about whether taking the next step on the path to becoming an Army Officer is for them. Not everyone will receive a scholarship, and there are many ways to join and participate in ROTC, but the bottom line is if you are curious about the Army, and whether becoming an Army Officer is for you, there is no reason not to enroll in an Army ROTC class. At Clarkson that is as easy as contacting me and asking me to have ROTC class added to your freshman schedule, or if you are at one of our partnership campuses getting a cross enrollment form from me to enroll in the class.
I’m often asked what ROTC class is like. In my next few blogs I’d like to talk about what each year’s ROTC class is like. Keep in mind that each ROTC Battalion does things a little bit different. Things such as weather in their part of the country, size of the program, and proximity to training facilities will effect how the Battalion trains. There is a standardized Program of Instruction (POI) the Cadet Command expects to be taught, but this POI can be executed many ways.
So I will describe how we train in Clarkson University’s Golden Knight Battalion, in Northern New York, an hour North of Fort Drum, New York, home of the 10th Mountain Division. We are a good sized program at a relatively small University. We have approximately 100 cadets from 4 schools which are all within a 15 minute drive of the host campus. We have a very supportive University, and have training facilities that include a rappel tower and wooded terrain on campus, a local civilian range, and a major military post within an hour’s drive.
So let’s talk about freshman year. We teach freshman class once a week. Subjects include map reading, customs and courtesies, introduction to tactics, and military communications. We will familiarize the new cadets with the 7 Army values, Warrior Ethos, and the LDP process. ROTC is a course that teaches small unit leadership and management, so things like troop leading procedures and the 5 paragraph operations order format are important tools the new cadet will get exposed to.
Along with our class we hold a 2 hour lab most Thursday afternoons. This is where all the cadets from all 4 year groups come together to conduct collective training. Last week’s lab was our US weapons lab. We visited a local Reserve Center in Canton, New York, and got the opportunity for some hands on familiarization with Army equipment and weapons like night vision devices and MK-19 grenade launchers. This week’s lab was our annual awards ceremony lab and dress uniform inspection. Some of the labs involve adventure training, like the rappel lab in the fall or the snowshoeing lab held a month ago. In the fall we also learn the basic battle drills. These labs usually involve paintball.
I almost forgot to mention PT. Here in the GKB we conduct PT 3 days a week. The juniors preparing for camp in the spring and the Ranger Challenge team in the fall are doing PT 5-6 days a week, but the freshmen are expected to come to PT Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
One of the things that make Army ROTC in the North Country unique is “The Boot” competition, and in particular ice hockey as one of the events. The boot competition goes back to the arrival of Air Force ROTC at Clarkson. One would naturally expect that an inter service rivalry would surface when they arrived and this rivalry manifest itself in “The Boot” competition. The boot is awarded each year to the program that wins the majority of the games in Soccer, Ice Hockey, and Basketball. In recent years we have tried to synchronize the Soccer game with parent’s weekend and the Hockey game with the Army formal (Dining Out). This adds a unique aspect to ROTC in our neck of the woods.
The reason I bring this up now is that the hockey game will be played in two weeks. I have to admit hockey is my sport, and I play 2 to 3 times a week, and love nothing better than to talk a little puck with a prospect. The Army ROTC team at Clarkson usually skates in 2 intramural leagues and practices one morning a week to prepare for the Air Force game. Some of us also play club hockey or for teams in local men’s leagues. Most of the cadets in the Golden Knight Battalion will tell you that somewhere in their initial meeting with me I asked them if they played hockey. I have been known to go see an applicant play if I get the chance. Why do I favor hockey players? In my opinion no other sport requires the quick thinking, raw power, skill, and fearlessness that hockey does. Many quality hockey players come from a prep school, which usually means a more mature cadet prepared for college academics. Hockey players also spend more time traveling than the usual athlete, and typically have developed the time management skills required of a college student and cadet. Getting up early or skating late at night is the norm where ice time is at a premium, and a cadet who has learned to manage these demands has an advantage.
Does that mean I’m not looking for soccer players or basketball players? Of course not. Army ROTC wants scholar/athlete/leaders, and I want to be able to see “The Boot” every day when I come to work! As a final note, if you plan to apply for an Army ROTC scholarship, or plan to participate in Army ROTC and pursue a commission you should be looking to participate in a team or individual sport to make yourself more competitive. Being a member of the Armed Forces is an action sport and you should be prepared to get in the game.
The PT test gives cadets and applicants much anxiety, and results in many questions so I thought I’d talk about the PT test today. As an applicant you have the option of taking the Presidential Fitness Test (PFT) or the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). I haven’t determined if there is an advantage or disadvantage to taking either one. The PFT is the easier of the two (1 minute of pushups and curl ups, and a one mile run vs. 2 minutes of pushups and full sit ups, and a 2 mile run), but the PFT is not a test you will ever take again. You need to pass the APFT to entry level standards to validate your scholarship, and pass the PT test to Army standards to retain your scholarship, and eventually stay in the Army. The APFT is the test soldiers take twice a year, every year. In my mind, if I was evaluating applicants a decent APFT score would be more meaningful than a PFT score. When applicants come to interview with the Golden Knight Battalion I usually ask them to take an APFT as part of the interview. [NOTE: I have changed my thinking on the subject of PFT vs. APFTread the post] I’m not looking for a pass or fail, just a relative level of fitness.
So let’s talk a little bit about the standards. The pushup is a fairly well understood exercise, but we are looking for it to be done in a particular way. The hands should be approximately shoulder width apart, and the body should be in a relatively straight line from feet to shoulders. When the exercise is done right the upper body is lowered until the upper arm is parallel to the ground, and then the upper body is raised until the arms are locked out. Resting is authorized, but arms and feet must remain in contact with the ground.
The sit up is done with the legs bent at a 90 degree angle, and the hands clasped behind the head. Correct execution is when the body is raised until the base of the neck is above the base of the spine, and then the body is lowered down until the shoulder blades touch the ground. Resting is only authorized in the up position, and you cannot bounce your butt to give you momentum.
The two mile run is just that…running two miles. If you are preparing for a PT test nothing prepares you better for this event than running 2 miles. Don’t tell me you run 20 minutes on the treadmill or bike 10 miles each day and should have no problems with the run. Nothing replaces getting out and running!
What is a good score? Cadets are required to pass with 60 points on each event. For a typical male freshman that means 42 pushups, 53 situps, and 2 miles in 15:54. For a Female its 19 pushups, 53 situps, and 2 miles in 18:54. This should not be that hard. A new cadet, or basic trainee is required to score at least 50 points on each event. As age goes up scoring changes, and as a future Army Officer minimums should not be the concern. You should be tracking what it takes to max the test.
Here are a few websites that will help you prepare for the Physical Requirements of ROTC.
According to Cadet Command there are a couple looming deadlines in this years scholarship process. The deadline for to submit documents to have your file reviewed on the 4th board is 22 February. That board will meet 1 March. The final deadline to submit documents is 28 March, and the final board will meet 4 April. Best of luck if you haven’t been boarded yet.
I would also suggest Google, or some other search engine (Google is my weapon of choice). Becoming proficient in entering key words into a search engine and getting to the ROTC department at your schools of choice is essential. As you’ll hear me say over and over, creating a dialogue with the enrollment officer at your desired destination is important. Ask questions, visit the school and program, and research what will be one of the most important decisions of your life.