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OU's ROTC puts in work
The dark November clouds on a Wednesday morning partly obscured the sun on Ohio University’s quiet campus, preserving the dew that formed overnight.
It was 6 a.m., and OU’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps was just warming up.
Training in the hills
Physical training is a requirement for OU’s Army ROTC program. Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, the “Bobcat Battalion” spends an hour stretching and running around campus.
These training sessions are required at least three times a week for every Army ROTC student — or cadet — but those who don’t meet military standards for physical fitness might be required to participate in “remedial” classes every day.
The Army Physical Fitness Test requires that under scholarship, male cadets should be able to do 42 push ups and female cadets should be able to do 19. Both genders should meet 53 sit-ups and complete a two-mile run within an allotted amount of time, according to the Army’s website.
Despite participating in three high school varsity sports, Alexandra Hambleton, a sophomore studying communication studies, said after one ROTC physical training session, she felt as if she “was going to die.”
After a year into the program, Hambleton said she’s acclimated to the exercise, but looks forward to the Military Science Leadership Lab enrolled Army ROTC students are required to take.
Silently moving through woods at The Ridges, cadets are split into groups to participate in situational training exercises. During one simulation, Hambleton was part of a group responsible for leading an assault across enemy lines.
Hambleton’s group was tasked with killing the “enemy” — another Army ROTC cadet hiding in the woods. The group outlined its strategy on a makeshift map before “attacking.”
“This is the same kind of training the army uses,” said Trevor Patton, a senior studying journalism.
Equipped with rucksacks weighing more than 30 pounds and fake, rubber M16 rifles, cadets moved as quietly as possible, a difficulty exacerbated due to dried leaves on the ground.
The only sound to interrupt the near silence was the occasional “bang,” which cadets yelled to imitate gunfire.
“It saves time and money not to shoot blanks,” Patton said.
Battalion still going strong years later
OU has about 140 students currently enrolled in the Army ROTC program, one of two OU ROTC programs. The number of students enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program was not available by press time.
When the Army ROTC program began in Fall 2008, there were only 75 enrolled cadets, said John Hansen, OU’s Army ROTC recruiting operations officer.
“Majority of cadets that join want to answer a higher calling of serving their nation (and) want to challenge themselves,” said Lt. Col. Terry St. Peter, an OU professor of military science.
There are no military obligations during freshman and sophomore years, according to the Army ROTC’s website.
Some scholarships are available to students, although not all cadets receive them.
“It’s extremely competitive,” said Kyle Likens, a senior studying organizational communication and Army ROTC cadet. “The ROTC program scholarships usually have to apply the senior year of high school, then you find out during the spring if they received it or not.”
Some students, such as Hambleton, who simultaneously participate in ROTC and either the Army Reserves or National Guard, receive benefits that might assist the individual in attending college financially, otherwise known as the simultaneous membership program.
After graduation, students who were enrolled in the advanced ROTC courses are committed to serve for six to eight years in the army, according to the army’s website.
There is no definite number of students who serve in active duty and it fluctuates every year, Hansen said.
Cadets are required to wear uniforms during labs and events they’re hosting. They’re issued by the government and complimentary to ROTC students.
Students don’t have to be enrolled as ROTC students to participate in their activities — military science courses are offered to any student in the 1000 to 2000 level. But upper-level classes, beyond the 3000 level, are solely for ROTC students, St. Peter said.
Hambleton said she was inspired to join ROTC with her father and grandfather, both veterans, in mind.
“I remember crawling into my grandfather’s lap and listening to stories,” she said. “It’s because of them I joined. I want to thank all the veterans, because without them I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Hambleton is unsure whether she’ll pursue a career in broadcast journalism in her Lima, Ohio, hometown or go into active duty if the U.S. needs to ship troops overseas.
But she said the prospect of the future doesn’t scare her.
“Make sure you keep your head on,” she said. “Keep going. Just keep going.”