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Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC): Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Training in College

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ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and Naval ROTC Programs are offered by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the Air Force. Their goal is to train qualified men and women to become officers in those services upon graduation from college. ROTC is available at more than 1,000 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. These include those that host ROTC units or detachments and those with cross-enrollment agreements.

During college, students take a full course load. Included in their curriculum are military science courses that provide the student with specialized knowledge needed by an officer. ROTC candidates are required to wear uniforms once a week during military labs, drills, presentations, and other practical training activities. During the summer, ROTC candidates get a taste of military life during the summer – such as midshipmen cruises in Naval ROTC.

Scholarships are not necessary for participation in ROTC, but many ROTC students receive scholarships every year. Scholarships are competitive and are based on merit. Some considerations include high school academics record, SAT or ACT scores, extracurricular activities, and a personal interview. The value, length, and terms of ROTC scholarships vary by service. All services offer four-year scholarships that include tuition, books, fees, and a monthly tax-free stipend. Three-, two-, and one-year scholarships are also available. Some services offer health-related or nurse ROTC variations. The U.S. Navy has an ROTC program at a variety of Historically Black Colleges.

Army ROTC is leadership focused. During classes and field training, you are given the opportunity to learn first-hand what it takes to lead others, motivate groups, and how to conduct missions as on officer in the Army. Upon graduation from ROTC, you will earn the bar of a Second Lieutenant. The specific training you receive in Army ROTC will teach you things like leadership development, military skills, and adventure training. Training takes place in the classroom and in the field, but you will be expected to maintain a normal academic schedule as well. Depending on when you enroll in Army ROTC, you will participate in the Army ROTC Basic Course (freshman year), Leader’s Training Course (summer before your junior year), Army ROTC Advanced Course (junior and senior years), and Leader Development and Assessment Course. Service obligations vary.

The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program was established to educate ad train qualified young people for service as commissioned officers in the unrestricted line Naval Reserve or Marine Corps Reserve. The NROTC program is the largest single source of Navy and Marine Corps Officers and plays a vital role in preparing candidates for leadership and management positions in an increasingly technical Navy and Marine Corps. The NROTC program is available at over 100 colleges and universities. Applicants selected for the program are awarded scholarships through a highly competitive national selection process and receive full tuition and other financial benefits. Upon graduation, NROTC Scholarship program midshipmen are commissioned as Ensigns in the Naval Reserve or Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve. Service commitment time varies. Midshipmen are required to take naval science courses in addition to their regular college courses. Due to the increasing complexity of today’s Navy, navy option midshipmen are required to complete the equivalent of two semesters of calculus before the end of their sophomore year and two years of calculus-based physics before the end of their junior year.

The Air Force ROTC program provides two routes you can take to Air Force officer commission – the four-year program and the two-year program. The four-year program consists of one hour of classroom work and 1-2 hours of leadership lab each week for the first two years. This is the General Military Course. After you meet these requirements, you have the option to compete for entry into the last two years of the program, the Professional Officer Course. Factors, such as GPA, evaluations, and test scores will be used to determine if you have officer potential. If you are chosen for the Professional Officer Courses, you will be required to complete a summer four-week field training unit. You will also be required to attend class three hours a week and participate in a weekly leadership lab lasting from 1-2 hours. Once you’ve enrolled in the Professional Officer Course, you’re enlisted in the Air Force Reserve. The two-year program is similar to the last two years of the four-year program, but with different entry procedures. The field training lasts six weeks instead of four. You are not committed to the Air Force until you return to school in the fall and make a decision to enroll in Air Force ROTC. Cadets in the Professional Officer Course and scholarship cadets are called contract cadets. There is no service commitment until you are on contract. After completing all Air Force ROTC and academic requirements, contracted cadets accept a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. Service obligations vary.

At this time, ROTC is not being offered by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, a similar program is available. The College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) is a scholarship program for college sophomores. This program provides training; full payment of school tuition, fees, and books; a salary; medical insurance; and other benefits during a student’s junior and senior year of college. The CSPI program guarantees training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) upon successful completion of all program requirements. Following the completion of OCS and commission as a Coast Guard officer, each student will be required to serve active duty (full time) as an officer for three years.


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