Once a week they give up their typical college uniforms consisting of jeans and sweaters to wear a different uniform. They wake up before sunrise as many GW students are just getting into bed. They work vigorously to maintain their grade point averages to fulfill the expectation of scholarship and continue to be involved GW students. They are the cadets of ROTC.
The Reserved Officer Training Corps trains young men and women to become service officers in the U.S. military after graduation. Members must attend special classes and endure rigorous workouts daily. After college, each cadet on scholarship owes the military four years of service when they graduate.
The program gives its members more than just the average college experience. It provides a close-knit community, junior third-class Sam Doogen said.
“It’s like being in a big fraternity,” Doogen said.
Although there are drawbacks, members interviewed said the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Most days of the week begin at 5 a.m. with a rigorous workout and drill. Many cadets said they do not mind it.
“You get used to the early hours,” Doogen said.
Students with full four-year scholarships must take eight extra classes.
Most of the intense classes such as the Evolution of Warfare only count as extra-curricular credits. But the cadets interviewed said the experience is worth the work.
One of the biggest misconceptions about ROTC is its members would be unable to attend college otherwise, junior Emily Slarsky said.
Many people join ROTC for opportunities after graduation and do not receive a scholarship.
Senior Lydia Bosnos, also a second-class cadet, was a member of ROTC for a year before she decided to apply for a scholarship.
“I would definitely recommend ROTC to anyone,” Bosnos said. “I think it is the best way to discipline yourself and make yourself a better person.”
While learning to live a disciplined and responsible life, ROTC cadets have as much fun as any regular college student.
“The people in ROTC are regular college students,” Bosnos said.
Unlike the midshipmen at the Naval Academy or cadets at West Point, these men and women have control over their own lives. They do not eat, sleep and dream the military, Slarsky said
“ROTC allows us to have real world experiences outside of the military,” Slarsky said. “We know how to do our laundry. We know how to deal with car problems.”
The men and women at the Naval Academy, on the other hand, send their uniforms to the dry cleaners and are not allowed to have a car until senior year, Slarsky said.
Respect, discipline and the value of commitment are three virtues cadets in ROTC learn well, freshman Alicia Warren said.
“I can’t believe the maturity of some of the other freshman members I see.” Warren said.
One of the greatest complaints from ROTC cadets is that the University does not give them close to enough credit for what they do.
Unlike athletic teams and other GW student groups, ROTC cadets cannot register early. Although there are specific classes they must take by specific deadlines, the University does not accommodate this need.
Still, there are many perks to their duties. Among the perks, Slarsky said, are ROTC programs that send their cadets to places such as Japan to fly jets and include parachuting school.
ROTC also has a scuba team and pistol club at GW. Cadets can ride in the same helicopters that fly the president and receive tours of the Pentagon.
They walk around campus in their uniforms and work just as hard, maybe even harder, than the average GW student. They are the cadets of ROTC.