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If you happened to walk through Mantor hall in the past few weeks, you may have noticed something unusual... read more

ROTC: An education for student soldiers
Ashley Leever
Antelope Staff
Photo courtesy of Robert Mendez
Freshman Cadet Chantell Reicks prepares for a 40-foot descent during the fall repelling lab. UNK's ROTC program now has 30 members on campus and six in basic training.

Gathered in the student union on a Monday night, they laugh, talk and eat Taco Bell, much like their fellow diners. Yet as students maneuver around their table, they can’t help but to glance their way. Clad in camouflage military uniforms, they stand out in the sea of sweatpants and coats. They are much more than friends gathering for dinner; they are future brothers and sisters in arms involved in UNK’s ROTC program.


Major Robert Mendez, an assistant professor of military science at UNK  said the Reserve Officer Training Program, (ROTC), is a commissioning source for the United States Army, the Army Reserve and the National Guard. “To be a commissioned officer in the Army, one must have a bachelor’s degree. As an officer they will attain a management position in the armed forces.”


The ROTC program has been in existence since 1916 in college campuses across Nebraska, but it is an up-and-coming program at UNK. The program had previously been at UNK until 1994 and was reintroduced in 2008. UNK’s ROTC program has grown rapidly with 30 members on campus and six in basic training.


With many students interested in the armed forces but unsure whether it is the right path, the ROTC program can provide a glimpse into what a military lifestyle would be like. “The first two years are introductory, called basic phase. If members decide to continue after they have completed the two-year program, they have contracted to go into the United States military and will receive a military science minor,” Mendez said.


Many students join the ROTC not only to earn their commission into the military, but to also help pay for their education. “I have wanted to join the military since I graduated from high school. The ROTC program is a great way to become a leader, and the National Guard is now paying for my education. I want to go into medical school and the ROTC program will also help with that,” said Cadet Emmalena Kelly, a junior exercise science and premed major from Falls City.


The program gives out three full in-state academic scholarships to students based upon their grade point average. Members are required to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in order to be eligible for scholarships.


Just like any program, the ROTC has many requirements students must follow in order to participate. “We have physical training class three times a week, military science class two hours a week and military science lab two hours a week,” Kelly said.


Freshmen and sophomores take the military science classes as electives, but if they decide to commission into the military they can receive a military science minor. “Cadets are required to do military fitness which consists of push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run. If they have commissioned into the military, we ask they come to the class five days a week. As juniors and seniors they need to pass an Annual Fitness Test and receive a military physical before they can contract as a cadet,” Mendez said.


As freshmen criminal justice major from Lewisville Bradly Cunningham puts it, “Getting up at 5:45 every morning Monday through Friday is probably one of the hardest parts of the program. But it all pays off in the long run.”
Along with staying in prime physical condition, students have lab on Monday nights. Students are required to wear their military uniforms in order to put into action what they are learning in class. “We do things like drill and ceremony, teach the students how to march and how to do facing movements. It seems so basic, but when you have 40 people together, it’s more difficult. We do weapons training supported by the National Guard who provide the weapons for us. Soldiers help the cadets learn about the weapons and weapon systems,” Mendez said.


Cadets also get experience outside the classroom attending Ranger Challenges at Division I campuses. These challenges require nine cadets a squad to compete in a range of events including athletic events. Cadets make many appearances at UNK sporting events in the ROTC’s Color Guard and Antelope Artillery, shooting off the cannon when the Lopers score a touchdown.  “The cadets are always busy and it’s a pretty good time investment. I admire those who also participate in sports as well,” Mendez said.


To junior aviation systems management major from Kearney, Aloma Moncrief, the program has become much more than just a commissioning source into the military; it’s a dream come true. “I was already in the National Guard. Now after graduation I will be attending flight school for the National Guard to learn how to fly helicopters. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

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