ROTC builds leaders

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students participate in the UNA Army ROTC-hosted JROTC Challenge March 1, 2014. The ROTC program recently celebrated the 100th anniversary program.

UNA joined the Cadet Command in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Reverse Officers’ Training Corps on campuses nationwide.

While some may think ROTC is simply a way to earn a degree while becoming a military officer, officials say, “Think again.”

“What we’re involved in is leadership development,” said Military Science Department Chair LTC William Pruett. “It’s not just developing officers, although that’s our primary mission and purpose. We’re really developing leaders for our communities.”

UNA hosted a series of events celebrating the program April 21 – 23. These events included a military history symposium, commemorative plaque unveiling ceremony, 5K camo run and Junior ROTC challenge. 

Pruett said UNA’s ROTC program has much to celebrate along with the 100th anniversary of the program.

This year, UNA commissioned 16 ROTC students, the largest class since 1989, he said.

“That’s a big deal,” Pruett said.

The celebration also included the unveiling of a new bronze plaque for the commemorative garden behind the Memorial Amphitheater. The commemorative garden includes the names of every ROTC student UNA commissioned since 1950, when the program came to campus, said Recruiting Operations Officer Jose Atencio.

Currently, there are more than 60 students on campus in the ROTC program, Atencio said. However, those students do more than their ROTC duties, he said.

“Just because they are in ROTC doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in other things normal college students are,” Pruett said. “They’re just doing more.”

Pruett said ROTC members represent several Greek organizations, honor societies, athletic clubs and student organizations in the cadet corp. 

“The best thing about ROTC is (I learned) to work under pressure and stress, (so) I don’t complain about many things college throws at me,” said junior Jose Figueroa-Cifuentes. “I write everything down on a calendar and manage my time very well thanks to ROTC.”

Besides the high involvement of ROTC students in campus life, the university is highly involved with ROTC, too, Atencio said.

“UNA has been very friendly and very supportive of the veterans and ROTC on this campus,” he said. “I can say that is a lot better than I have seen at other programs being treated by their universities.”

Students can apply and learn more about ROTC at The ROTC open house will be Aug. 24 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Students can join ROTC up until their junior year of college and maybe later depending on how close they are to graduation, he said.

“I think what it gives our cadets is an opportunity to become a better-developed leader,” Atencio said. “Whether they go into active duty in the army or whether you go into the National Guard or army reserves and do a civilian job. There are still those leadership qualities and skills out there that your employers look for. It’s a skill set.”