Once you decide to join ROTC it is important to note that not all programs are created equally. Sure, the officers and NCOs go to the same conferences. The PowerPoint slides are the same at each school, as they come from Cadet Command. Even the template for the number of military personal allotted in each program is similar for schools of comparable size. However, there are intangible considerations that can determine whether you come out receiving average training from a ho-hum program, or if you are truly prepared to excel at the Leadership Development and Assessment and Course (LDAC) and become a leader within the United States Army.
There are several subjective ways to analyze a programs worth, such as the likability of the instructors, what your peers say, and whether they follow certain rules regarding when the uniform is worn or how often physical training is conducted. However, I intend to stick with objective measurements that can be more easily compared between programs and hold universally true regardless of who is doing the comparing.
What to look for:
- The assets available near campus exclusively for ROTC training. This could include the number and quality of obstacles for the Field Leadership Reaction Course, having a rappel tower, and available land to conduct situational training exercises. The more obstacles for FLRC, the more times you will get to practice your leadership skills and learn the tricks to make you more efficient at triumphing over each challenge. Similarly, having actual wooded land to conduct missions is much more beneficial than pretending to be on a recon while walking across the flat grass of campus wearing all your equipment and being gawked at by peers. If you don’t expect a sports team to be any good without proper training equipment, you really can’t expect anything different of training a future warrior.
- The number of cadets who received Excellence ratings at LDAC each of the previous 2-3 years. Ideally about 20% of each commissioning class from each school should have received the top rating. This tells you that the school is teaching relevant information and is taking time to correct mistakes and encourage improvement.
-The number of Distinguished Military Graduates (ranking within the top 20% in the nation). This is based not only on cadet rankings at LDAC, but also everything else on the national Order of Merit List such as performance on the Army Physical Fitness Test, FLRC, grades, and several other categories. Having a number of DMG cadets shows that the program encourages well-roundedness.
-The percentage of cadets who receive their first choice of military branch. That is, this is the percent of each class that gets the Army job they wanted. After all, nobody wants to spend four years doing something they know they’ll hate. It’s important to know if your program is helping its cadets earn the slots that will make them happy and feel fulfilled.
-The school’s placement at Ranger Challenge competitions, the number of extracurricular clubs ran by cadets, etc. If your school’ ROTC program performs well at competitions you can bet the cadets are not only physically fit. It shows they are driven, dedicated, and disciplined. They are also very likely to be tight-knit. Being around people who enjoy doing well will make you better. They are the people with pride in their performance and the good sense to know that you must earn every accolade. Similarly, morale is likely very high if the cadets are going out of their way to lead new organizations.
This list is not all-inclusive, however it will give you a good barometer of what your potential program is like. And, if it comes down to two schools whose assets are too similar to determine which is better, you can always go back to your subjective observations and ask yourself which cadre you’d prefer to see teach class every other day.