Marist ROTC program prepares students for a strong future
Sweat permeates the air as Sgt. 1st Class Roy J. Moweary guides physical training. "One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand," the cadets count, as they stretch their hamstrings.
After their warm-up, the cadets engage in numerous rounds of push-ups and sit-ups and finish their training with running. It's Monday, 6 a.m. and these cadets have already woken up, gotten dressed, and started their day at the McCann Center gym.
Of the five Marist students participating in Reserve Officers' Training Corps, four are males and one is female, according to Moweary, who is in charge of the program on the Marist campus.
ROTC is in its second year at Marist College. It is an extension of the program at Fordham University in New York City, so Marist does not have a fully staffed ROTC office.
Nationwide, there are fully staffed ROTC programs at 293 colleges, according to the U.S. Army Web site. In addition, there are over 700 extension programs.
The Web site says that almost 60 percent of commissioned officers in the U.S. Army graduated from a ROTC program.
Maj. Jeremy Sumpman, an officer at the Fordham chapter, says it is important to keep students interested in participating in the Corps. He says the most common misconception is that joining ROTC means enlisting in the army is mandatory. Sumpman says committing to the army is an option that a cadet decides by their junior year.
"One thing students should know is that they can do ROTC," he said. "You just have to want to do it."
To enlist in ROTC, one must be a healthy, full-time student in good academic standing.
"You don't have to be in amazing shape. Just healthy enough to do physical fitness," Sumpman said.
ROTC offers financial benefits for cadets who have committed to the army, according to Sumpman. The scholarship program will pay for students' tuition and fees, including $450 per semester for books and a monthly stipend, which varies by grade level. Freshmen receive $300 per month, sophomores $350, juniors $450 and seniors $500.
If a student wishes to commit to the Army, the contract lasts for eight years, not including his or her time in college. Soldiers can serve in different combinations of service, including active duty, inactive duty, Army Reserve, or the National Guard. After college, cadets enter the military as Second Lieutenants, the first level for Commissioned Officers in the Army.
According to ROTC, once involved, cadets gain a wide range of experience and training. Cadets are encouraged to participate in a one-three-hour class per week, a leadership lab once a month, two field-training exercises per month, and physical training three mornings a week. Physical training lasts about an hour and consists of running to warm up, performing cardiovascular exercises, and jogging to warm down.
According to freshman cadet Jordan Kieschnick, three or four days out of each semester is spent performing field training exercises in places such as Fort Dix, NJ.
"We do real life training," he said.
However, Maj. Sumpman says that recruiting students for ROTC can sometimes be a challenge.
"The Marist community is very receptive to ROTC," he said. "The problem is making sure there are people really interested. People tend to not be healthy enough or not physically fit."
Kieschnick says he joined ROTC this year in order to be a step ahead of his peers.
"I joined for patriotism," he said. "It's not so much about financial need for me. I would like to end up as an FBI agent, and the military is a good stepping-stone for that. After serving time, they can help me pay for grad. school, which can then lead me to a career at West Point."
Kieschnick says ROTC offers security, as well as a direct career plan after graduation.
"Compared to a lot of my friends that don't know what they are doing after college, if I finish my requirements I know exactly what I'm going to do after college," he said.
ROTC training at Marist is ideal for students who wish to be in the military after college, according to Kieschnick.
"I will get the training that I will need to lead soldiers into any branch [of the military] that I decide," he said. "This is the training that I will need to keep my men and myself alive."
According to Kieschnick, even if students do not commit, the ROTC is a great experience.
"My favorite part of being in the ROTC is that I'm a part of something that's bigger than myself," he said.
The cadets wipe the sweat from their faces before they head back to their dorms. They now have a half hour to shower, eat breakfast, and get to their 8 a.m. classes.
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