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What to Expect as a Cadet in Army ROTC

Your typical week will include Physical Training (PT) 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45-6:45 a.m., with some Drill and Ceremony (marching) practice for about 15 minutes afterwards. You will have your Military Science and Leadership (MSL) class intermixed with all of your general and major classes. Those classes will vary how often you meet depending on your student status. Freshmen meet for one hour each week, sophomores for two and junior and senior year for three hours. This is your typical week.

Other weeks will include more training, and the training will vary depending on what we are learning at the time. Just as any chemistry class will have a lab associated with it, our classes do as well. Every Wednesday we hold lab from 5-6:30 p.m. This allows cadets the opportunity to meet as a battalion and expand upon what you have learned in class. The labs allow time to do the hands on portion that we don’t have time for in class.

We have 3 clubs each month that are voluntary but highly recommended. Drill Club covers more in depth on topics of Drill and Ceremony, everything from the Customs and Courtesies of the Army (such as saluting, why we salute, when, etc.; Flag Etiquette, and much more). Cateau Rangers teaches more of the tactical side of the Army, some of the events we have done include learning about different US weapons systems and going to a local National Guard Armory to get hands on experience with the weapons. The final club is Rifle and Pistol Club. This gives the opportunity for the cadets that like to shoot weapons to shoot competitively. We have also done Virtual Convoy Trainers and Virtual Shooting Ranges, where you are behind the wheel of a Humvee driving in a virtual combat zone or shooting real U.S. weapons systems hooked up to a laser, using a wall as your computer screen.

We have one large Field Training Exercise (FTX) each semester that lasts about 3 ½ days. We do rappelling from a 40 ft. tower, obstacle course, day and night land navigation, qualify with M-16 rifles (shoot live rounds) and spend an entire day of Squad Situational Tactical Exercises (STX lanes, which is running Army missions). Examples of those missions would include doing reconnaissance missions, attacking a known enemy, setting up and ambush, etc. We usually end the FTX with a pizza party and weapons cleaning.

Other miscellaneous events our Cadets partake in include recruiting events. These may require you to help talk to other students for an hour or so and tell them about our program. We also do fundraising events such as ushering for sporting events, firing the cannon at football games and security guards for concerts in town, among other things throughout the community. The money raised goes directly into the Cadet fund and the Cadets can decide what to spend it on. Examples they have done is to get together for a pizza night, go bowling or to help offset ticket prices for our formal events and dinners. We have one formal event each semester in which we will get dressed up in our dress uniforms and have a formal dinner with a speaker and guests.

Training will change slightly as you progress from freshmen to seniors. Your freshman and sophomore year you have less responsibilities and are learning the basics of the Army. Basic Camp is a requirement in the summer of your freshman or sophomore summer (this depends on when you start the program and if you have already completed Basic Training). Your junior year is the focus year, as you are in leadership positions that are constantly evaluated. You will be in charge of our PT sessions, getting information out to all of the cadets, planning and running labs and overall preparing for Advance Camp. Advance camp is held annually at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The U.S. Army’s largest training exercise, Advance Camp is the US Army Cadet Command’s capstone training event. The purpose of this course is to train U.S. Army ROTC Cadets to Army standards, to develop their leadership skills and to evaluate their officer potential. Most Army Cadets attend Advance Camp between their junior and senior undergraduate years after having contracted to join the Army. Successful completion of Advance Camp is a prerequisite to becoming an Army Officer through ROTC.

The 30 day course starts with individual training and leads to collective training, building from simple to complex tasks. This building-block approach permits integration of previously-learned skills into follow-on training. This logical, consistent training sequence is maintained for each training cycle. Every day at Advance Camp is a day of training. There will be little you see there that you have not seen here at SDSU. After completing Advance camp, you will return as a senior and will be in charge of all the Cadets, under supervision of the Cadre. You will be running ranges, evaluating the juniors and helping them get ready for Advance Camp.

After graduation and commissioning, you will go to Basic Officer Leader’s Course (BOLC) at an Active Duty post to learn your job as an Officer in the Army. This will happen regardless of whether you are selected for Active Duty, National Guard or Army Reserve. This training will last anywhere from 3 months to a year and a half depending on the job.

Through most of ROTC, you are a college student who just happens to be in ROTC. Your GPA is top priority, and we are flexible with training if you need extra time to study for tests. The best way to explain your commitment and time involved in ROTC is that we land somewhere between and extracurricular activity (spending some time outside of class) and a Varsity level sport (where they tell you when to wake up, take classes, what time practice is and when you are to go to bed). We require some time outside of class, however you are still a college student.

We have some voluntary training you can apply for typically during the summer. This includes Airborne (jumping out of airplanes), Air Assault (working with helicopters), Mountain Warfare (learning to survive in mountain environments) and a host of Cultural Immersion and Cadet Troop Leadership Training opportunities. Cultural immersion will allow you to learn about a country’s culture and then we send you there to experience it with a group of Cadets from around the U.S. Cadet Troop Leadership Training allows you to shadow an Active Duty Lieutenant for a few weeks to see what their job entails and what it is like to be Active Duty.

Military obligations after college will be a total of 8 years. Those 8 years will be different depending if you go Active Duty or National Guard/Reserves. If you go Active Duty, you will owe a minimum of 4 years serving on Active Duty, and after that 4, you can get out or stay as long as you like. If you get out before 8 years, you will be transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Think of the IRR as a list of names, ranks and jobs. Should the Army be critically short of a job, they will start looking on that list for the job and rank of person they need to bring back into the service.

Should you commission into the National Guard/Reserves, you will be required to do 6 years of your “one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer” training. The last two years of the 8, you will be put on the IRR, unless you finish out all 8 years. From there, if you decide to continue with your career, and have not signed any other contracts for bonuses, job or duty stations, you will be on a day-to-day commitment. You can stay until retirement (provided you continue to excel and perform well at your job) or get out at any time.

Upon graduating and commissioning, you will start out as a Second Lieutenant (2LT). If you go Active Duty, you will make around $50,000 a year, varying upon where you are stationed. A lot of that money is paid to you for housing (Basic Allowance for Housing, BAH) and food (Basic Allowance for Subsistence, BAS). This puts you in a lower tax bracket typically, as BAH and BAS are non-taxable. By year 4, when you can initially get out as an Active Duty Soldier, you will have been promoted twice, and have gotten pay raises that total about 36%. You will be making around $70,000. This is all pretty much a guarantee, provided you do not do something illegal.

If you go National Guard/Reserves after college, you will have a supplemental income to your civilian job, with great and cheap benefits. Health insurance for an individual (approx. $47) and family (approx. $205) per month, and have hard to beat deductibles and coverage. Dental is also cheap, and covers most of what you will typically need.

There are a host of other military benefits, almost too many to talk through, some examples are military discounts at many retailers and food places. The biggest benefit though, is the training you receive. Should you decide that you are done with the Army, when you put your Army service on your résumé, you have a big advantage over all other applicants. If you put down that you were and Army Officer, they realize that you not only know how to work hard to accomplish a job, but you know how to lead and manage people to do the same. Many times, you may get a better job than planned for. No matter how you go through Army ROTC, as long as you pass college, ROTC requirements and abide by the law, we can guarantee you a job upon graduation. Not many other organizations can do that.