Pack proud, ROTC strong
Intense workouts, 5 a.m. alarms, scripted degree plans and wearing the same outfit every Thursday sounds like a nightmare to most college students, but for more than 100 ROTC students at A-State, it’s all part of their passion, dedication and training for their military careers.
Jordan Mays, a sophomore criminology major of Highland, and Isaiah Washington, a senior IDS military science major of New Orleans, are two of those students.
“I have always been interested in the military, even at a young age, but my sophomore year of high school was when I decided to take that interest seriously and pursue it,” Mays said. “I started doing a lot of research of my own on the rank structure of the Army and learned about the various ways I could join.”
Mays discovered there was an enlisted side of the ranks and an officer side of the ranks. His parents, grandparents and both brothers were all enlisted.
“So knowing all that I really wanted to be different, and become the first officer in my family and start something new,” he said. “So in high school I chose to pursue various options of becoming an officer in the army and ROTC was the path I ultimately chose.”
For Washington, there was no family influence, other than the support they had for him on his decision to start a military career.
“I have always respected members of the military. Eventually I felt like the time was right for me to enlist in the Army National Guard. After going to basic training, I realized I wanted to be an officer,” Washington said. “I knew Arkansas State ROTC has produced quality officers and I felt like it would be a good fit.”
That reputation for ASU ROTC comes from many years of success.
“In college and after graduation, cadets find that the training and experience that they have received are assets, whether pursuing an Army or civilian career. Employers place high regard on self-discipline and the management and leadership skills that A-State Army ROTC instructors stress,” said Brian Mason, executive officer and assistant professor of military science. “Plus, A-State Army ROTC looks great on a resume. We have been producing high-quality officers for over 77 years here at Arkansas State, and we are very proud to be one of the only programs in the nation with a Hall of Heroes.”
Aside from classes, jobs and personal lives, a typical week for an ROTC student includes having physical fitness training Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Each Thursday all the cadets dress in their Army uniforms for their leadership lab, which is from 3-5 p.m.
“The most difficult part of ROTC for me is time management. As a senior cadet, I am responsible for training the lower ranking cadets and that requires a lot of behind the scenes planning,” Washington said. “It’s easy to focus on the job when you play a vital role in the program, but sometimes if you do not manage your time it can allow you to get behind in your other classes. That’s where discipline becomes practice.”
Any student with an interest in the ROTC program can join without an obligation to the Army during the first two years of ROTC, however, the third and fourth year advanced courses can only be taken by ROTC cadets who sign a contract agreeing to become an ROTC officer.
“The students must meet minimum academic standards of 2.0 cumulative GPA, be medically qualified to commission and pass a physical fitness test. That said, it is becoming very competitive to commission as an Army officer,” said LTC Cecil Clark, professor and department head of military science.
Clark said most cadets who are commissioned into the Active Duty Army have a cumulative GPA above 3.4 and score high on the physical fitness test.
Students who are graduating or those who decide late to join ROTC may have the Basic Course substituted by attending a month-long Leadership Training Course at Fort Knox during the summer prior to their starting ROTC. Clark said the program often has graduate students take this route.
An ROTC student graduates with whatever bachelors degree he or she chooses, but also with a minor in military science. This requires one additional leadership class and lab in military science each semester for the cadets.
Though there are many challenges and trials ROTC students face throughout their college careers, the experience is a very rewarding and beneficial opportunity for the cadets and their futures.
So far, Mays has been a member of the Ranger Challenge Team, which placed first in Arkansas and fifth overall at the Ranger Challenge in Fort Sill, Okla. his freshman year; the color guard; the rifle team and he is the ROTC senator in SGA. Mays was also recently selected to go on a CULP (Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency) deployment to Germany this summer for a month and a half.
After graduating, Mays ultimately plans to go active duty as a military intelligence officer, retiring after a 20-30 year military career, and then pursue a career in either the CIA or FBI.
Washington has elected not to go active duty immediately after graduating, but says he plans to have a military related career.
“It’s really hard to say one part of ROTC is the best because it’s all amazing to me. I’m really drawn to the opportunities that ROTC has granted me,” Mays said.
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