Some join out of patriotism, others because of family affiliations and still others for their own personal reasons. The BYU ROTC program is one of the best in the nation, according to Maj. Ben Ashton, but it is not for everyone. The caliber of physical fitness, desire and work ethic is demanding, yet ROTC students say the support they receive from their leaders and fellow cadets, make the program more like a family.
Sophomore Cadet Taylor Beauchemin said the program is a lot more friendly than he expected.
“I remember last year, for my first physical training of the semester, I didn’t know what to anticipate,” Beauchemin said. “I was thinking it was going be rough, they’re going to yell at me if I can’t do this stuff, but it’s not like that at all.”
The purpose of the ROTC program, as stated by its mission statement is “to produce highly qualified commissioned officers in the U.S. Regular Army, the U.S. Army Reserve, or the U.S. Army National Guard.” The cadets who graduate from the ROTC program will become second lieutenants and platoon leaders in charge of 25 to 30 people.
Thirty percent of incoming freshmen and returning missionaries are commissioned, meaning that they are expected to complete four years of Army service upon graduation. Cadets are able to apply for Army ROTC scholarships that pay for their tuition and books in full, in addition to $9,000 to use as they wish, according to Jack Sturgeon, the ROTC’s scholarship and enrollment officer.
A normal week in the ROTC program consists of three physical training workouts, two-hour block classes, and a three-hour lab. The physical training class is formatted to help the cadets pass the Army physical fitness test that involves a two-mile run, two minutes of push-ups and two minutes of sit-ups. The cadets come together to for leadership exercises in which they learn to communicate information and complete “missions” as a unit. Junior and Senior class members are placed in charge of leading the platoons in labs that take place off campus in Rock Canyon Park, Big Springs Park, or a designated ROTC space called AO Viper.
Cadet Dillion Selee, a member of the ROTC program, said the freshmen cadets usually find themselves confused at first, but catch on quickly.
“In the beginning you feel silly and confused when they tell you to go on security,” Selee said. “You’re just lying there in the dirt looking for an imaginary enemy wondering what on earth you’re doing, but later on you get to the point where you feel involved in the mission.”
Twenty percent of incoming freshman drop out on average after their first year despite the perks that come with being a member of the ROTC program. Reasons for dropping out vary, and include poor health, grades, or fitness. Selee said the program overall is a welcoming place where everyone gets along, but “its just not for everyone.”
The cadets have great respect for their Cadre, the ROTC instructors. These men come from a large array of army backgrounds — engineers, infantry, MI, logistics — and all have been deployed. The Cadre show the students how their training can be applied to real-life situations.
“The leadership we have are really polite and kind to you,” Beauchemin said. “They understand where you’re coming from and they want to help you and make you a better person. They don’t want to tear you down, like you kind of anticipate in the army. They only want to build you up. You’re not just some random cadet No. 371.”
Beauchemin said he enjoys learning from people who have experience with the Army and who have been through rigorous training.
“Their influence is extremely valuable because we are literally following in their footsteps,” Beauchemin said. “I can talk to them and they know exactly what it is going to be like.”
Those who go through the ROTC program graduate with a diploma from BYU and as second lieutenants in the Army. They may choose between the National Guard, the Army Reserve, or active duty and become specialized in one of 16 different fields.