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Reserve Officers' Training Corps

Newly graduated and commissioned officers of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Unit Hampton Roads stand at attention as they are applauded during the spring Commissioning Ceremony in May 2004.

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based officer training program for training commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces.[1][2][3] ROTC officers serve in all branches of the U.S. armed forces (although the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard do not have their own respective ROTC programs, graduates of ROTC programs do currently serve as Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers). In 2010, ROTC graduates constituted 38.5 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Army officers, 1.8 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Marine Corps officers (through NROTC), 16.7 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Navy officers, and 38.1 percent of newly commissioned U.S. Air Force officers, for a combined 30 percent of all active duty officers in the Department of Defense commissioned that year.[4] Under ROTC, a student may receive a competitive, merit-based scholarship, covering all or part of college tuition, in return for an obligation of active military service after graduation.

The U.S. Coast Guard offers a similar program to ROTC under a different name: CSPI (College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative).[5] In addition, although the U.S. Coast Guard does not have an ROTC program, direct commissions are available for ROTC students at select colleges and universities, for ROTC graduates transferring branches, as well as for qualified military pilots.

ROTC students attend college like other students, but also receive basic military training and officer training for their chosen branch of service through the ROTC unit at or nearby the college. The students participate in regular drills during the school year, and extended training activities during the summer. Some of the summer training that is offered to cadets in the Army ROTC program are: Airborne, Air Assault, Mountain Warfare, WHINSEC, and other related schools.


  • Service obligation 1
  • History 2
  • U.S. Army ROTC 3
  • U.S. Navy ROTC 4
  • U.S. Air Force ROTC 5
  • Controversy 6
  • Non-U.S. ROTC programs 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Service obligation

The term of obligatory service varies based on the type of commission the cadet or midshipman receives, as well as any scholarship contract signed. They can serve as active duty or in a reserve status. Additionally, a cadet on active duty can receive either a regular appointment or a reserve appointment. This affects the required years, as well as how many must be completed on active duty, in an active reserve capacity, or in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Under federal law, graduates of an ROTC scholarship program incur a four-year active duty service obligation (ADSO) and an eight-year MSO (military service obligation) if they accept a commission as a regular officer. Recipients incur an eight-year MSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component. Finally, recipients incur at least a six-year MSO and up to an eight-year ADSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component with at least two years of active duty.[6]

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. This can include three years active duty (four years for scholarship winners), with the balance in the IRR.[7]

The service obligation for a Navy ROTC student is five years in the Navy, or four years in the Marine Corps.[8]

The active-duty service obligation for an Air Force ROTC student is four years, or six years for Combat Systems Officers or Air Battle Management officers, or ten years for pilots.[9]


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, Vermont. Norwich was founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.[10] The university was founded by former West Point instructor Captain Alden Partridge, who promoted the idea of a "citizen soldier"—a man trained to act in a military capacity when his nation required, but capable of fulfilling standard civilian functions in peacetime.[11] This idea eventually led to the formation of Reservist and National Guard units with regimented training in place of local militia forces.

Another root of the modern ROTC program comes from the "Plattsburg Idea." In 1915, Major General Leonard Wood instituted the Citizen's Military Training Corps, the first series of training camps to make officers out of civilians. For the first time in history, an attempt was made to provide a condensed course of training and commissioning competent reserve line officers after only a summer of military training. Over 5,000 men arrived at Plattsburgh in May 1917, for the first of the large training corps. By the end of 1917, over 17,000 men had been trained. Now by the eve of its entry into World War One the US had a prepared corps of officers including one of the earliest Plattsburgh graduates, Theodore Roosevelt Jr..

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.[12] In some places ROTC was expelled from campus altogether, although it was always possible to participate in off-campus ROTC.[13]

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, and in force until 2011, which forbade homosexuals serving in the United States military from disclosing their sexual orientation at the risk of expulsion. Some schools believed this legal mandate would require them to waive or amend their non-discrimination policies.

In recent years, concerted efforts are being made at some Ivy League universities that have previously banned ROTC, including Columbia, to return ROTC to campus.[14] The Harvard ROTC program was reinstated effective March 4, 2011, following enactment of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

Under current law, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element.[15]

An Army ROTC unit practicing rapelling from a parking garage in September 2010.
  • The first are the programs at the six 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 they 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 bachelor's 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's degree was not in effect. Therefore, upon commissioning, lieutenants 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[16] with the approval of the school's professor of military science.

U.S. Army ROTC

Army ROTC cadets on a field training exercise in March 2005.

The Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) program is the largest branch of ROTC, as the Army is the largest branch of the military. Army ROTC provides the majority of the Army's officer corps; the remainder comes from West Point, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or direct commissions.

AROTC offers scholarships based on the time of enrollment in the program. Newly graduated seniors in high school can enter the program with a full four-year scholarship while college students can enroll later and earn a scholarship that would cover the remainder of their college career.

The two-year scholarship is available for students with two academic years of college remaining. An applicant for a two-year or four-year scholarship must meet the following requirements.

  • U.S. citizen
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Between ages 17 and 27
  • College GPA of at least 2.5
  • Army physical fitness standard

The applicant must agree to accept a commission and serve in the Army on Active Duty or in a Reserve Component (U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard)

The four-year scholarship is for students who receive it out of high school or before entering college. The four-year scholarship can be extended with the same conditions to a 5-year scholarship if the major is in Engineering.[17]

The two-and-a-half-year scholarship is available for students already enrolled in a college or university with three academic years remaining.

An applicant for a two-and-a-half-year scholarship must meet the requirements for a two-year scholarship, and also have a minimum SAT score of 920 or ACT score of 19

Once an applicant has shown interest in the AROTC program the cadre can select him for a scholarship if he/she excels in the three major pillars. 1. Grades- 2.5 GPA or better 2. PT- score of 60 in each category (push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run) 3. Participation- extracurricular activities in the program, community, or school

Prior to 2015, a cadet had to have passed LDAC between their summer of becoming a senior. LDAC (Leadership Developmental and Assessment Course) was held at FT. Lewis, Washington until its final year at Fort Knox, Kentucky; where each cadet would be evaluated on leadership skills. The course was set up for a month of training with other peers and evaluated by prior servicemen.[18]

From 2015, cadets attend Cadet Summer Training (CST) between their Junior and Senior year at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The event is no longer an evaluated event. It is simply a Go/NoGo event. The change reflects a new vision to reflect the ROTC model to the US Military Academy at West Point model. CST is the US Army's largest training event.

U.S. Navy ROTC

The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926; in 1932, the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program. The naval NROTC program is offered at over 150 colleges nationwide.

U.S. Air Force ROTC

The first Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (then Air ROTC) units were established between 1920 and 1923 at the University of Illinois, the University of Washington, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University. After World War II, the Air Force established ROTC units at 77 colleges and universities throughout the United States.


The Solomon Amendment denies federal funding to any university with a "policy or practice" that prevents the military from "maintaining, establishing or operating" ROTC on its campus. Such universities are allowed to require that ROTC adhere to the same policies as the university's other academic programs. According to Diane Mazur of the Palm Center, the military has withdrawn ROTC from a number of universities rather than adapt to those policies or accept extracurricular status. In her analysis, both the military and academe, as of the fall of 2010, preferred not to dispute the public perception that elite universities had banned ROTC programs. She wrote:[19]

The military may be more comfortable when it retreats to parts of the country ... where universities don't ask a lot of questions .... [C]olleges may also be more comfortable when they go along with the fiction of banning ROTC, because then they don't have to answer to people upset about "don't ask, don't tell." Everyone buys into the myth, but at the expense of military readiness. The military needs to return to the colleges it walked away from, and everyone needs to stop pretending that ROTC programs ended because of a ban.

Others argue that universities effectively ban ROTC by erecting procedural hurdles motivated by anti-military sentiment and objections to discrimination based on sexual orientation that only serve to "discourage their own presumably egalitarian, intelligent, and enlightened students from joining."[20]

ROTC programs were subject to the military's ban on service by open gays and lesbians known as "Don't ask don't tell." LGBT students occasionally protested ROTC as a proxy for the policy.[21][22] An act to repeal the policy was signed by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, and implementation took effect September 20, 2011.

Non-U.S. ROTC programs

Other national armed forces in countries with strong historical ties to the United States have ROTC programs.

Other countries have also institutionalized reservist training programs. Reserve Officer Training in Russia began in the 1920s.

See also


  1. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 2101
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Population Representation 2010 - Active Component Commissioned Officer Gains
  5. ^
  6. ^ 10 USC 2107a
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ ROTC
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Stanford Review: Yishai Kabaker, "Stanford's Anti-ROTC Policy is Self-Contradictory," April 27, 2007, accessed March 12, 2012
  21. ^ Columbia Spectator: Robert McCaughey, "Don't wait, don't stall," February 18, 2010, accessed March 12, 2012
  22. ^ Harvard Crimson:Eric S. Solowey and Lisa A. Taggart, "Students Plan ROTC Protests," April 25, 1989, accessed March 12, 2012
  23. ^ GMA's Speech - National ROTC Alumni Assoc
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^

Further reading

  • Deborah D. Avant (2005) The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, Cambridge University Press.
  • David Axe (2007) Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War.
  • Charles Johnson (2002) African Americans and ROTC: Military, Naval, and Aeroscience Programs at Historically Black Colleges 1916 — 1973.
  • Betty J. Morden (1990) Women's Army Corps, p 287.
  • Jennifer M. Silva, "ROTC", chapter 35 of Gender and Higher Education by Barbara J. Bank.
  • Harlow G Unger (2007) Encyclopedia of American Education, p 938.
  • David Atkinson (2012) Ultimate ROTC Guidebook, The: Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Excelling in Reserve Officers' Training Corps

External links

  • U.S. Army ROTC
  • U.S. Air Force ROTC
  • U.S. Naval ROTC
  • Archive of ROTC news and documents at Advocates for ROTC
  • The Ultimate ROTC Guidebook
  • Spartan Battalion - Army ROTC at Michigan State University
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