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The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based, officer commissioning program, predominantly in the United States. It is designed as a college elective that focuses on leadership development, problem solving, strategic planning, and professional ethics.

The U.S. Armed Forces and a number of other national militaries, particularly those countries with strong historical ties to the United States, have ROTC programs. The Republic of the Philippinesmarker established its program in 1912, with the creation of the first unit at the University of the Philippines during American colonial rule. ROTC in the Republic of Koreamarker started in 1963; while the Republic of Chinamarker created its own program in 1997.
Newly graduated and commissioned officers of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) Unit Hampton Roads stand at attention as they are applauded during the Spring Commissioning Ceremony.

ROTC produces officers in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces except the U.S. Coast Guard. ROTC graduates constitute 56 percent of U.S. Army, 11 percent of U.S. Marine Corps, 20 percent of U.S. Navy, and 41 percent of U.S. Air Force officers, for a combined 39 percent of all active duty officers in the Department of Defense. The Philippine-based National ROTC Alumni Association (NRAA) estimates that 75 percent of the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines come from ROTC.

With the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard, each of the U.S. Armed Forces offer competitive, merit-based scholarships to ROTC students, often covering full tuition for college in exchange for extended periods of active military service. For example, in the U.S. Army ROTC, students who receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course must agree to complete an eight-year period of service with the Army after college. U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force ROTC students are referred to as cadets, while U.S. Naval ROTC students are known as midshipmen; these terms coincide with their service academy counterparts. The Naval ROTC program commissions both U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps officers. The U.S. Coast Guard sponsors only a JROTC program.

Army ROTC units are organized as brigades, battalions, and companies. Air Force ROTC units are detachments with the students organized into wings, groups, squadrons, and flights, like the active Air Force. Naval ROTC units are organized into Naval battalions. If the Marine students are integrated with the Navy students, there are companies; but having the Navy students in departments and divisions like a ship, and the Marines in a separate company is only done when an ROTC unit has sufficient members to warrant an extra division.

History of U.S. ROTC

The concept of ROTC in the United States began with the Morrill Act of 1862 which established the land-grant colleges. Part of the federal government's requirement for these schools was that they include military tactics as part of their curriculum, forming what became known as ROTC. The college from which ROTC originated is Norwich University in Northfield, Vermontmarker. Norwich was founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.

Army ROTC cadets on a field training exercise
Until the 1960s, many major universities required compulsory ROTC for all of their male students. However, because of the protests that culminated in the opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, compulsory ROTC was dropped in favor of voluntary programs. In some places ROTC was expelled from campus altogether, although it was always possible to participate in off-campus ROTC.

In recent years, concerted efforts are being made at some Ivy League universities that have previously banned ROTC, including Harvardmarker and Columbia, to return ROTC to campus. In the 21st century, the debate often focuses around the Congressional don't ask, don't tell law, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, which forbids homosexuals serving in the United States military from disclosing their sexual orientation at the risk of expulsion. Some schools believe this legal mandate would require them to waive or amend their non-discrimination policies. The Supreme Court ruled in March 2006 that they are entitled to hold this opinion, but at the expense of federal funding (see Solomon Amendment).

Under current law, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element.
  • The first are the programs at the six senior military colleges, also known as military schools. These institutions grant baccalaureate degrees (at a minimum) and organize all or some of their students into a corps of cadets under some sort of military discipline. Those participating in the cadet program must attend at least 2 years of ROTC education.
  • The second are programs at "civilian colleges." As defined under Army regulations, these are schools that grant baccalaureate or graduate degrees and are not operated on a military basis.
  • The third category is programs at military junior colleges (MJC). These are military schools that provide junior college education (typically A.S. or A.A. degree). These schools do not grant baccalaureate degrees but meet all other requirements of military colleges (if participating in the Early Commissioning Program), and cadets are required to meet the same military standards as other schools (if enrolled in ECP), as set by Army Cadet Command. Cadets can be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Reserve/Army National Guard as graduating sophomores. Upon commissioning, these lieutenants are required to complete their bachelors degree at another institution (of the lieutenant's choosing) while serving in their units. Upon receiving their bachelors, ECP lieutenants can assess active duty and go onto active duty as a first lieutenant. Only the Army currently offers an Early Commissioning Program. In time of war, MJC's have played a significant role in producing officers for the Army. During the Vietnam war, the requirement to complete one's bachelor degree was not in effect. Therefore, upon commissioning, LT's went straight onto active duty.

One difference between civilian colleges and the senior or junior military colleges is enrollment option in ROTC. ROTC is voluntary for students attending civilian colleges and universities; however, with few exceptions (as outlined in both Army regulations and federal law), it is required of students attending the senior and junior military colleges. Another major difference between the senior military colleges and civilian colleges is that under federal law, graduates of the SMCs are guaranteed active duty assignments if requested.

U.S. Army ROTC

The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (AROTC) program is the largest branch of ROTC, as the Army is the largest branch of the military.

U.S. Army ROTC Cadets Selected More For Reserve Duty

A new issue, that has presented itself in 2009, concerns newly-commissioned Second Lieutenants from the Army ROTC program, and will continue to affect each cadet class for the next few years. The United States Army has started to select a significantly high number of cadets to serve in the Reserve component instead of Active duty.

Because of an underassessment in the early 90's, the Army has had to fill in the gaps of the Reserve component in the Army. There is considerable gap in the Reserve between First Lieutenants and Colonels, meaning that there isn’t enough Captains, Majors, and Lieutenant Colonels to hold the duty positions desperately needed and to lead enlisted and non-commissioned officers. These gaps are filled by selecting an abundance of cadets that are about to commission to serve Reserve duty from ROTC programs, West Point Academy, other military schools, and Officer Candidate School graduates.

The Army hold goals that need to be met for active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard. In the 90s, the goal for the Reserve was not as popular as active-duty, especially since the Army and Cadet Command focused too much on cadet satisfaction.

There are several ways that cadets can increase their chance to get their choice of Active duty. During their college careers, cadets must maintain a high academic and ROTC G.P.A. Cadets must continue to develop physically and achieve high scores on the APFT. Cadets that hold leadership positions in extracurricular activities and do well in executing the Leader Development and Assessment Course all contribute to each cadet’s Order of Merit List or OML. There are thousands of cadets all over the United States that are competing for high spots on the OML. The higher up a cadet is on the OML, the better their chances that they will receive their duty (active or Reserve) and branch of choice (within the Army).

The Cadet in their MSIV year, typically in the fall semester, receives their branch and duty assignment according to their position on the OML and goals that need to be met by the Army.

U.S. Naval ROTC

The Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926; in 1932, the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program.

U.S. Air Force ROTC

The first Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps (then Air ROTC) units were established between 1920 and 1923 at the University of California, Berkeleymarker, the Georgia Institute of Technologymarker, the University of Illinoismarker, the University of Washingtonmarker, the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker, and Texas A&M Universitymarker. After World War II, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower established Air Force ROTC units at 77 colleges and universities throughout the United States.

U.S. Coast Guard ROTC

There are no current ROTC programs sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, but there is a Direct Commissioning program for graduates of maritime academies. The Direct Commission Maritime Academy Graduate Program is available to individuals who hold a degree from a qualifying state or federal Maritime Academy and hold a Third Mate or Third Assistant Engineer license, or a degree major in Marine Environmental Protection or a related field. Maritime Academy Graduates have education and training that enhances the Coast Guard's ability to carry out its operational missions. Individuals selected will serve as a Coast Guard Reserve Officer on full-time active duty. In addition, there is only one JROTC program that is sponsored by the Coast Guard. The Mako Battalion is based in the Maritime and Science Technology Academy High School in Miami Florida.


ROTC programs have from time to time been criticized on college campuses. During the Vietnam War Universities such as Harvardmarker and Stanfordmarker discontinued their ROTC programs in protest of the war and ROTC programs were often at the center of student protests against the war.ROTC, being part of the military, also implements Don't ask don't tell. LGBT students often protest not being allowed in ROTC and some colleges refuse to have ROTC programs because of it.

See also

External links


  1. Population Representation 2004 - Active Component Officers
  2. GMA's Speech - National ROTC Alumni Assoc

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