Life in ROTC

by Samantha Plotner

Photo from Brooke Blackwell

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for the United States Navy is officially returning to Columbia University. Just like other University-wide activities, Barnard students will be eligible to participate. To gain some insight into the life of an ROTC cadet I talked to one of my very good friends, Brooke Blackwell. Brook is a cadet in Army ROTC at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Besides ROTC she is a member of the varsity women’s tennis team and as a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Council, which acts as a voice for student-athletes.

Brooke joined ROTC because she hopes to become a clinical psychologist with a combat stress unit which she described as, “where you get deployed with troops and do intensive therapy when things go down.” To obtain her PhD she can apply for an education delay and if she receives it, her service commitment is delayed while she finishes her degree, which the Army will pay for. Working towards her undergraduate degree is the same way, she and her fellow cadets cannot be deployed until after they graduate. However there are certain requirements she has to meet while in college. Each semester she takes one, sixty minute lecture course and one three hour long in the field lab course. In the third and fourth years the lecture expands to a three-hour long course. As a contracted cadet she also has physical training three times a week. While in ROTC, a student becomes a contracted cadet by their third year. At that point they sign a contract saying they will serve as an officer for eight years (it can be all active duty or a mix between active duty and reserves or national guard). In return the military pays for the student’s tuition and gives them a monthly stipend. Brooke recommends that potential ROTC cadets, “not contract right away and do your MS1 year first and see if it’s right for you…there are so many kids [at Mason] who were MS1 this year and got scholarships and everything and then drop it and have to pay it all back.”

Despite all the requirements Brooke enjoys the program because of the relationship she has with her fellow cadets. As she puts it, “we’re basically like a huge family…everyone has a sense of loyalty and duty towards each other. There’s like nothing we wouldn’t do to help each other out.” Mason’s ROTC program has no more than 100 people per Brooke’s estimate and, “20 at most” are girls. At school she sees no difference between the guys and the girls aside from the physical standards because the guys are, “actually really good about being fair.” However, the outside military establishment is a different story. “The standards for women being officers in the army are a lot higher than for men being officers in the army” she said, “one of the Captains actually sat me down and talked to me about it a couple of weeks ago and she was like are you ready to face people starting rumors about you and assuming things about you just because you’re a pretty female in the army?…It sucks but it’s just something you have to deal with?”

Samantha is a sophomore at Barnard and co-editor in chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing.


2 thoughts on “Life in ROTC

  1. I left a comment here with a link to a Columbia Spectator op-ed by Barnard and Army ROTC graduate Natalie Lopez-Barnard BC '10. It got erased somehow. I suggest looking up Natalie to find out what it's like for a very recent Barnard student in ROTC.

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