What's your experience with ROTC/Corps of Cadet?
May 28, 2011 7:33 PM   Subscribe

What's your experience with ROTC/Corps of Cadet?

I've been admitted to Virginia Tech under the Corps of Cadet as a Civilian Cadet. So honored. Anyways, this question applies to both ROTC students and Civilians in the Corps of Cadet, not particularly at Virginia Tech only but at Texas A&M and/or other universities with ROTC.

What did you like about being in the Corps?
What didn't you like?
Did you study abroad?
Did you do research?
Did you every take a semester or two off?
How has being in ROTC/Corps of Cadet as a Civilian helped you OUTSIDE of school, in say, the "real world" when looking for a job or applying to graduate school?
What were some "traditions" they do to freshman? or in general?
How "intense" was it?
Any tips for me?

I've done my research, but what was your experience?
I'm looking for honest reviews and experiences OUTSIDE of guidebooks and university representatives.
posted by enroute888 to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did Army ROTC for a year and a bit at Ohio State. My experience is that it was what we made of it - there were kids who made it more or less as challenging and engaging as humanly possible - voluntarily running for an hour every morning before PT, that sort of thing - and those who were literally in it because they needed to get a lot better at marching before the band would take them (they mostly went Air Force, actually.) Specifically:

- I liked the military science stuff, practicing tactics on the lawn, that sort of thing. I loved being able to wear my uniform on campus and represent the Army in the community. I enjoyed raising the flag at football games and doing pushups when we scored.

- I didn't like the differences between the scholarship cadets and the rest of us; I think in the long run it hurt us that, for instance, we weren't required to do all the PT they were (lots of scheduled things were optional for non-scholarship cadets.) I hated the fact that I had professors who made faces at me when they saw me in the uniform.

- I didn't do study abroad, but plenty of ROTC kids did. They just had to arrange things in conjunction with their summer training.

- I did do research, but it was through my department and again had nothing to do with ROTC. A few of the kids who did NCUR and our university research contests were in ROTC; I will also point out that the military academies participate in NCUR (I was hit on by a few midshipmen the year I went.)

- Everyone was supposed to take a class every term. The program was set up so that we literally took Military Science 101, 102, 103, then 201, 202, 203, etc. It was required for scholarship cadets, and strongly encouraged for everyone else, but if you weren't a scholarship student, you could still finish ROTC with one of them missing or fulfilled in a different way (just like with the freshman/sophomore year summer training.)

- People like hearing about ROTC in this part of the country, and it gives me something to talk about with the folks whose kids are now deployed. However, just doing ROTC and not actively serving sets you apart from everyone who did serve; it's really the service that gets you benefits in the real world (both social and in terms of, you know, civil service exam points and the like.)

- The traditions I'm familiar with were all very specific to OSU; I doubt they'd apply to what happens at VT. Our Air Force group was much, much bigger than Army/Navy, and had more traditions than we did.

- It wasn't that intense for me, but I didn't do the summer training (which was not required of non-scholarship students.) I did do summer training through the Sea Cadet as a high school student, and that was very intense to me at the time. We were trained by volunteers (my Sea Cadet boot camp was led by a Navy Reserve officer,) though, and I was 14-16; the USNSCC training acclimatized me a bit too much, I think, and I never really felt things in ROTC as deeply I think, as a consequence. By the time you've had people rip up your dorm just to see you scramble to put it back together in five minutes, and been ordered to do pushups if you can't answer questions like "What does NATO stand for," two mile runs just aren't that big a deal. (Note: the fact that I knew a ton of trivia like that got me out of an incredible amount of PT.)

My favorite memories of ROTC are qualifying for my basic marksmanship ribbon on the first try (only one other person did it) and rehearsing battle tactics in the fieldhouse. My strangest memories are watching all the worst Vietnam-era war movies in class and discussing them critically (that and memorizing landing vehicle specifications seemed to take up most of Military Science 102,) and using cast-off uniforms, weapons, and other equipment from the Ohio National Guard. My least-favorite memory is the attitude of my English teacher on Thursdays.

I left ROTC because I have a medical condition (vision-related) that would almost certainly keep me from getting a commission (PDF). Also, I was 18, a disaffected sophomore, and therefore decided to change pretty much everything about myself, including ROTC. I wish I hadn't, but I don't think I'd have listened to anyone at the time.
posted by SMPA at 8:29 PM on May 28, 2011

I've been a professor at a campus with ROTC students. It was a much smaller school than VT so things are probably different, but one interesting behind-the-scenes thing is that the officers who run the ROTC program there have a friendly relationship with profs. For example every semester I would hear from one of them telling me that this or that student is a ROTC scholarship student and if the student screws up (eg starts skipping class) I should let the officer know and the officer will have a stern talk with the student reminding them of their responsibilities. So -- if you are signing up as a scholarship student be aware they will take your academic performance seriously and keep on you to come to class etc.

I knew several students who joined ROTC as sophomores or juniors (they were not ROTC scholarship students) and really liked it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:05 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know two people who did Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech. One of them I haven't really discussed it with at all; the other one seems to have really fond memories of it and seems pretty involved as an alum some 10-15 years later. He has had a pretty successful career - teaching, law school (JD and LLM), a job at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a congressional fellowship, and a job as legislative assistant for a congressman (with a portfolio including military and veterans' issues) - and I assume that having been in the Corps helped him get at least the military-oriented positions. I wish I had gotten more details from him when we were still in touch! My little brother in going into ROTC this fall, so I will be interested to see the rest of the answers on this thread.
posted by naoko at 10:43 PM on May 28, 2011

Courtesy of statsgirl's husband:

I was a cadet in the Corps from 1995-1999. I started out in Army ROTC, but due to a knee injury, I did not continue in ROTC, but remained in the Corps till graduation.

I was not an engineering student, as were most of my buds, but one of the benefits of the Corps is an integrated focus on academics. Some students enter the university with strong study skills, others do not. Some excelled in high school just by being smart, however, at Virginia Tech (and every top tier university), virtually everyone is smart. What sets you apart is the ability to work hard, balance competing demands for your time, and persevere when faced with adversity. The Corps has set study hours, and any class that you would likely take, you will have at least four or five people that had taken the same course. You will have access to their experience and guidance, and for many of my friends, that access helped them out immensely.

As for lifestyle, it is not easy. It is not designed to be. However, you will not be working through the challenges alone. Every member of a freshman class is known as `buds'. The class is referred to by the graduation year, so me and my buds were the class of 99. You will be pushed and challenged, and you will ultimately grow as a person. The physical and mental toughness that you will develop will serve you well in whatever you ultimately end up doing personally and professionally.

One of the great benefits of Virginia Tech (and Texas A&M) is that the Corps exists within the larger university setting, and there are multiple opportunities to become involved in the larger university life. I was a member of the class system, which is like class president, vice president, etc. I was on the ring design committee (a weighty responsibility), and was involved in undergraduate research in the psychology program.

With respect to a downside, one of the things that struck me the most is that your time is pretty much accounted for. You always have something to do, whether you want to or not. You don't get the opportunity to just stop, sit in the shade, and relax or maybe even nap for a few minutes.

With respect to benefits, one of the things that I have benefited from is the sense of `task accomplishment' when it comes to doing work. There was always accountability in the Corps, and you get used to either getting the job done, or not getting it done, and paying the consequences.

As for traditions and intensity, each company is somewhat different, and each has its own `personality'. My company was NOT known for uniform appearance or military bearing, but we ALWAYS had the best grades and highest PT scores.


- For lack of better words, embrace the experience. Don't be overly afraid, but treat it with a healthy respect and learn as much as you can.

- Focus on physical fitness as well as grades. I neglected this part of my development after my injury.

- Be smart when going to parties. People have lost commissions because they were not smart.

- If you have the chance, take classes over the summer. It will give you a chance to be a normal student for a while, which has it's appeal sometimes as well.

I hope this helps, and I wish you well.

If you feel like it, post your experiences later if you would like to share.

Take care...
posted by statsgirl at 12:00 PM on May 30, 2011

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