The Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Dallas has just 10 cadets, a small number relative to other college ROTC programs. But perhaps their small size is precisely what sets them apart as a distinctly close-knit group on campus.
“The ROTC program here is based on the Army branch and is centered around learning infantry tactics and becoming what would be an officer in the Army if you decide to contract,” junior Emily LaFrance, a cadet, said. “We are sourced out of the University of Texas at Arlington [UTA], and we are a part of their battalion.
“Southern Methodist University, Dallas Baptist University and the University of Texas at Dallas are other schools that join [UD] in going to [UTA] for training — in total, there are about 100 students in the full battalion.”
The ROTC program offers a lecture class on campus at UTA and has a lab portion of the class on Thursdays as well. The cadets commute twice a week to UTA for training and often participate in competitions related to their training.
“With ROTC, like any other organization, you have opportunities to do special clubs and cool individual things,” LaFrance said. “For example, in the color guard team you do ceremonies with flags for Veterans Day or Memorial Day…and there are drill ceremonies, and there is something called ODM where you basically do super hardcore Army stuff,” LaFrance said.
For many students, ROTC is not just an activity or an organization, but the beginning of a serious commitment to their country.
“ROTC progresses throughout your four years in different military science levels ranging from year one to year four,” La France said. “MS 1 and MS 2 are non-obligation years, which means that you can be in ROTC without a contractual obligation. In the third year, you decide whether or not you will contract with the Army.”
For those cadets who contract in the third year, the next two years of tuition are covered, which entails a four-year commitment to the Army. Some cadets, however, come onto campus with a scholarship from the beginning, which covers all tuition and entails an eight-year commitment to the army.
In addition to the lecture class and lab at UTA, the cadets have mandatory workouts from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. each morning.
“Being here at UD is both a blessing and a curse, because it’s definitely a bigger responsibility, more of a time commitment, and a little tougher on your academic life to be away at UTA, but at the same time I am forming what I know are lifelong friendships with the UD cadets here, and it’s just a great group of people,” LaFrance said.
Other UD students in ROTC came into the program from different backgrounds, but they share a coherent idea about the mission of the program.
“I grew up on an Army base in an Army family — my dad was in the Army and that’s all I ever knew, so I fell in love with the Army a long time ago,” LaFrance said. “In high school, they offered me a scholarship to pay full tuition to come [to UD] and I was like, great — I can go into the Army and go into the school that I want to. That sounds like a good deal to me”
While some students grew up with ROTC training practically in their bloodstream, others came with no background at all other than a respectful interest.
“The way I got involved was kind of random,” freshman cadet Clare Hernandez said. “A lot of kids do the JROTC program in high school, but I never did that and neither of my parents are military. But I’ve always really liked learning about military things, and when I was little, I was super into war history. I visited … UD when I was a junior in high school. It was over Veteran’s Day…and the cadets were doing a folding of the flag ceremony. I remember just sitting with my friend…and then it just kind of hit me — I could totally do that.”
The program prepares students to be leaders ready to take on whatever may come to them in the future.
“ROTC has definitely taught me how to lead others in an effective way, how to work with people of all types, how to bring people together, effective communication, and [how] to have a lot of mental toughness,” LaFrance said.
The learning process, while long and difficult, is a group effort for UD students.
“Even though there are only 10 of us, we are so close-knit, and even when we are over in the battalion at UTA, everybody knows the UD group because we are really close, even though we have different positions and roles in the battalion,” LaFrance said. “We are all really supportive of each other, always willing to help each other at the drop of a hat, and it’s a great community that we’ve built around each other. So I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”