ETSU forced to shut down ROTC program as part of phase-out plan

East Tennessee State University learned this week that its Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program is one of 13 programs across the nation being closed by the U.S. Army.

The decision to close the programs was made by the Secretary of the Army, based on a recommendation by the U.S. Army Cadet Command. The phase-out plan will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by August 2015.

ETSU is one of three schools in Tennessee on the list of programs being closed.

The ETSU ROTC program, which falls under the auspices of the ETSU College of Business and Technology, includes 54 Cadets who are on contract with the U.S. Army. Approximately 222 ETSU students are enrolled in military science programs.

“We are devastated,” said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. “We feel this decision is an injustice to our students, to our graduates, and to the outstanding men and women who have led this program since it was founded in 1952.”

According to Noland, one of the reasons the Army gave for closing the university’s ROTC program was based on concerns about the number of officers being commissioned from ETSU.

“This decision is based on outdated metrics,” he said. “Our program at ETSU commissioned 15 officers in 2013, and we expect to produce comparable numbers for the upcoming year. Looking ahead to 2015, we expect to commission 25 or more officers with our current junior class.

“Our ROTC enrollment is the largest it has been in the past 25 years.”

According to information from the U.S. Army, current juniors and seniors in the program will be able to graduate as officers from ETSU. Current freshmen and sophomores will have the option of transferring to another university ROTC program, or request to have the contract with the Army voided.

Though the ROTC program at ETSU is funded by the U.S. Army, Noland said ETSU provides significant financial support for the program through scholarships, staffing, housing assistance, equipment purchases, facility renovations, and travel support.

In addition, the university recently made significant improvements to the Veterans Memorial Lawn in front of Brooks Gymnasium, which houses the ROTC program. “This project further showcases our ROTC program and facilities, which are located at the heart of our campus,” Noland said.

Since the program’s inception at ETSU, the university has commissioned more than 1,400 officers, including nine general officers. The U.S. Army Cadet Command has recognized two recent ETSU graduates with the Pallas Athene Award, which honors the top female cadets in the eastern United States.

Noland added that 10 Buc Battalion alumni have sacrificed their lives during active service.

Earlier this year, the ETSU ROTC’s Ranger Challenge Team traveled to West Point, N.Y., to compete in the annual international Sandhurst Competition. The ETSU team was one of only eight teams in the nation invited to compete, earning that spot after placing first at the 7th Brigade Championship held in Fort Knox, Ky.

The ETSU ROTC Cadets have also performed well in numerous regional competitions in recent years, Noland added.

“We will continue to engage in efforts to vigorously protect and maintain our storied ROTC program at ETSU,” he said.

- From Contributed Reports

Posted on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm