With their right hands raised, 10 of South Carolina State University’s Army ROTC cadets took their oath of commission May 6, joining the ranks of the thousands on men and women who have participated in the program during the last 100 years.
The newest officers were commissioned by Gen. Dennis Via, commander of U.S. Army Material Command. Via graduated from Virginia State University as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1980 and was a cadet in the school’s ROTC program. He gave the keynote address during last week’s ceremony.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in your place,” he said. “I’m here to let you know that you’re OK and you’re better prepared than you know you are.
“(In the Army) we are in the leading and caring business and today this serious business becomes your business,” he said.
This year marks 100 years of ROTC transforming college students into American military leaders. Later this year, Fort Jackson will celebrate its 100th anniversary, as well.
The program officially began June 6, 1916, however military training in the classroom actually started years earlier. “We’re leaving a legacy,” said 2nd Lt. Shequanna Fuller, who was met by cheers when introducing her battalion.
In 1862, The Morrill Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, requiring that land granted colleges incorporate military tactics to “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life,” according to the National Academic Press.
It was when the National Defense Act of 1916 was passed that ROTC programs could officially use military resources such as equipment, uniforms and active duty instructors in their training.
ROTC stands for the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps. The program teaches military technical skills as well as gives leadership training. Once completing their education, ROTC graduates are commissioned as officers.
S.C. State’s Bulldog Battalion has commissioned more than 2,000 students, including Col. Milford H. Beagle Jr, commander of the 193rd Infantry Brigade. It is recognized as one of the largest producers of minority officers for Army.