BYU Army ROTC puts ‘Service First’

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The Brigham Young University Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) has changed the name of its battalion to more accurately reflect its mission. Since its establishment in April 1968, the BYU Army ROTC has been known as the Cougar Battalion. Forty-five years later, the growth of the program has necessitated a new name: the Service First Battalion.

According to the Service First Battalion mission, “The Service First Battalion educates, trains and inspires Cadets” to prepare them for “a lifetime of excellence and service to the Nation as an Officer in the United States Army.” It is the goal of Lt. Col. Marc “Dewey” Boberg, professor of military science, to emphasize the cadets’ service to the nation.

“They’re taking an oath to give up their life if necessary so … the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy,” Boberg said. “That’s what we mean by service first — putting the needs of not only your church, but the nation, before yourself.”

Kim Hybarger, 21, an art education major and secretary in the Army ROTC office, expressed her approval of the name change.

“In competitions and things it … gets the message out of what’s important. The point of military service is obviously to serve,” Hybarger said. “It gets at the heart of what it’s about more than just a catchy name.”

The Service First Battalion has been involved in several service projects, from helping to clean the LaVell Edwards Stadium after every home football game to humanitarian work abroad. Cadet Jon Selee, a junior in political science, recently returned home from an ROTC trip to Panama where he used his language skills to facilitate communication between Panamanian civilians and American medical professionals offering free clinics.

“I think (the new name) is a good representation of what we do. We’re very focused on service,” Selee said.  “We do more than just fight wars in the army. We do a lot of humanitarian aid … It’s a good change.”

Lt. Col. Boberg also hopes the new name will help create unity within the battalion, which has expanded to include the Army ROTC programs of Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University and Dixie State University for which BYU is a host school. Cadets of the Service First Battalion from all four schools come together for a field problem at Camp Williams once every semester.

“The truth is we’re all equal. We’re all trying to become Army officers and serve the nation … so let’s emphasize the service first piece instead of trying to say Cougars are better,” Boberg said. “One thing we’ve got to learn how to do is be good teammates. Not just leaders but work together as teammates, and sometimes there’s animosity. … I want to try to reduce those barriers.”

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