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ROTC holds Pass and Review

Matt Bramanti | Thursday, April 15, 2004

Members of Notre Dame’s ROTC units gathered in the Loftus Sports Center Wednesday afternoon for the annual Presidential Pass in Review. The event centers on a ceremonial parade, in which cadets and midshipmen present themselves to University President Father Edward Malloy.

Nearly 400 members of the Army battalion, the Navy battalion and the Air Force wing stood at attention in rank and file, as a color guard marched up to the reviewing platform.

As the Great Lakes Navy Band struck up the first notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the color guard dipped the flags of the four armed services in salute to the American flag.

Malloy then conferred several awards – consisting of officers’ sabers – on the top cadets from each unit.

Following the awards presentation, Malloy addressed the cadets. The university president – a native of the Washington, D.C. area – recalled serving as an altar boy during military funerals at nearby Arlington National Cemetery. Malloy said the experiences impacted his thinking about the American military.

“There was a profound sense of both peace and appreciation,” he said.

He praised the cadets for their dedication to military service.

“The profession that you’re preparing to enter is about very fundamental things,” he said. “It’s about life and death; it’s about devotion to family, to country and to humanity.”

Malloy said the students, who will be commissioned as officers upon graduation, will face difficult and dangerous situations, much as their predecessors have.

“Many who stood before you … are now in the front lines,” he said.

He said that the role of the military has expanded in recent history beyond its traditional role of fighting wars. The modern American soldier helps rebuild communities after natural disasters, conducts international peacekeeping operations, prevents ethnic conflicts and fights terrorism, Malloy said.

Malloy then turned his remarks to the senior class of cadets and midshipmen.

“We hope that [your] time here among us has helped you grow in every possible way,” he said. “We’re confident that we can be proud of you – that you will be worthy people of integrity in the military profession.”

After Malloy’s remarks, Capt. Jim Shelton gave the order: “Pass in review.”

The units then marched with well-rehearsed precision past the reviewing platform. As they passed, company commanders turned to salute Malloy and their officers.

Several cadets, like Army junior John Dickson, said that the ceremony was an opportunity to reflect on Notre Dame’s support of the military.

“It’s a great chance to celebrate the end of the year,” Dickson said. “Marching before the school is a great honor.”

Shelton, the Navy unit’s commanding officer, agreed, saying the event honors both the cadets and Notre Dame.

“It’s an opportunity for them to show off what they’ve learned,” he said. “It’s a neat ceremony and a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the University.”

The event was well attended, despite construction projects which made it difficult to access Loftus directly. More than 200 students, faculty members and area residents turned out for the ceremony in the cavernous facility, which serves as a practice field for Irish athletics.

Among the students in attendance was senior Ed Stocks, who gave a very simple reason for his presence.

“I’m here to support my friends,” he said.

At the same time, Stocks said he has wrestled with the juxtaposition between military training and Catholic doctrine.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,” Stocks said. “Regardless, it’s a very positive thing to support one’s country and to be of service.”

Senior Andrzej Syski said Notre Dame adds a unique element to the military education cadets receive in their ROTC courses.

“It’s important that our military leaders have a good education in morality and faith,” Syski said.

Although the event was not marked by the protests that have occurred in years past, controversy still touched the Pass in Review.

Last fall, the Student Senate gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to move the event to South Quad, where it had been until 2001. Despite the petition and a request from ROTC officials for an outdoor location, university administrators directed that the ceremony be held on Loftus’ artificial turf.

University spokesman Matt Storin said concerns about inclement weather were the impetus for the move.

“The primary reason that the request for an outdoor ceremony was turned down was weather,” he said. “It can be very raw this time of year.”

Some cadets and non-ROTC students privately suggested that administrators deliberately put the ceremony in an out-of-the-way location, hoping to avoid criticism of the military’s role in a Catholic university.

Storin dismissed those concerns, noting that several key University administrators were in attendance, including Bill Kirk, associate vice president for residence life, and Father Richard Warner, director of campus ministry. Storin said Notre Dame administrators believe in the ROTC program.

“By no means is there a loss of faith in ROTC,” he said.

But senior Army cadet Sean Williams suggested otherwise.

“It was decent attendance, considering the fact that that it was all the way in construction-filled Loftus,” Williams said. “The weather sure was good for having it outside.”