8 Things Only Cadets Understand About ROTC

Joining the Military
U.S. Army Cadet Command photo

As the largest commissioning source for officers in the U.S. military, ROTC programs for each branch span across the country. Comprised of wise cadre and (usually) enthusiastic cadets, they strive to build effective military leaders out of American college students. However, there are plenty of frustrations and absurdities along the yellow brick road to commissioning. The program’s long institutional history is culminated here into eight genuine aspects of being a cadet in ROTC.


1. You're stuck in "Cadet Land,” which to most "isn't the real military."

Your family and friends may be wowed by your handsome uniform and commitment to country, but those in the "real" military will not hesitate to remind you that you have it way too good. To them, Cadet Land is a magical place where uniform violations are punishable by a grueling 10 pushups (because anything beyond 10 for punishment is not permitted), where ribbons are given out willy nilly for anything from getting good grades to being physically fit, and where summer training consists of waiting in tents because it’s "too hot outside." While some aspects of ROTC may seem ridiculous, the efforts of dedicated cadre and a time-tested curriculum results in the production of educated leaders prepared to take on the responsibility of being an officer.

2. You don’t volunteer, you’re “voluntold.”

It's not easy to motivate college students to take extra time out of their week to clean up after events, be on color guard for sports games, take inventory of equipment, or reluctantly participate in “ROTC extracurricular activities” such as Ranger Challenge. Many techniques to get volunteers have arisen from nail-biting pressure placed on the senior cadets to get things done. Such techniques include keeping the formation after physical training until enough cadets volunteer for a detail. As the time creeps towards 0800, anxious cadets raise their hands in fear that they may be late for class.

3. You gave up on understanding the accessions process a long time ago.

The criteria for the national order of merit list that decides who should do what and at what cost of time in service (think time commitment traded for a desireable duty location and/or branch) changes often, so it's difficult to figure out what provides a substantial leg up on the competition. When it comes to grade point average weighing in, those unfortunate engineering and top-tier college students get absolutely annihilated. Attending a college with a challenging curriculum and actually treats a C as “average” makes you look terrible on paper, especially when compared to endless cadets who flew through communication courses at a school that distributes As like candy on Halloween. Cadet Command has indicated that it has made efforts to level the playing field through the use of standardized testing, because attempting to weigh GPAs to respective college curriculums would be an unfathomable headache.

4. Cadet Leader Course is the capital of “Cadet Land.”

After four or so weeks moving from muddy tent to muddy tent, you will look back and wonder what the hell just happened. Friends are made, lessons are learned, but by no means is Cadet Leader Course a difficult endeavor. Not to mention, the opportunity to determine if some cadets “need improvement” by CLC cadre is now obsolete. Staying awake seems to be the primary challenge, and distribution of mail is usually the highlight of every day. Oh, and don’t lose your weapon or else thousands of cadets will be forced to dummy cord their own weapons to their belt loops.

5. College and early morning physical training don’t mix well.

We all hear about how physical training is only as difficult as you make it. Some believe that to mean that one should put 110% into the mundane physical fitness routines the Army mandates. Others interpret it as a challenge to be in a questionable condition when showing up to break a sweat. Such a condition is obviously not ideal, but when fear of missing out settles in, not even a seven-mile run will stop people from going out the night before. On the bright side, it’s certain to build some intestinal fortitude.

6. The Ford ROTC vans are your second home.

Any dreams you had of rolling out of your college in a Black Hawk or a convoy of Humvees are very far-fetched. Face it, you’ve developed a bitter but reliant relationship with your battalion’s overpacked Ford van. Getting your own row is like being handed the penthouse room key at the Four Seasons, as long as you try not to think about the seatbelt buckles poking into your back. The only exception is if you're in "that battalion" that miraculously has loads of money to spend despite sequestration to ride in Chinooks to a weekend training event.

7. Sgt. Google is a cadet’s best friend.

Unmeasurable public scrutiny can be avoided using a simple technique: look it up. Such incredible ingenuity often saves otherwise helpless new cadets from being embarrassed by older cadets or cadre. Such a search might hint that on the Army combat uniform, the collar is not velcroed shut on the neck, the American flag is on the right shoulder, boot laces are tucked in, and the U.S. Army name tape should probably not be upside down. Likewise, a quick search might also save your skin when you forget how to properly execute a counter column while practicing drill and ceremony, or write a freaking operations order after it’s been taught thousands of times.

8. The human resources specialist owns you.

There’s no bigger frustration in ROTC than messed up paperwork. If you are not yet “besties” with your human resources specialist, it’s never too late. Anything you can do to help your case is worth the time if you expect to get paid on time with the correct amount, have your last name spelled correctly, or ensure that your paperwork actually makes it to your first unit.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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