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U.S. Army doesn’t honor ROTC contract

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I wanted to follow up on Gary Caruso’s March 24 article, “Examining the decline of President Bush.”

I am the Notre Dame ’96 alum who was referenced in the article as having filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Army because they would not honor my contract. I signed a ROTC contract at Notre Dame in August of 1992 while I was 18 years old. In return for a partial scholarship, I was to serve eight years in the Army or Army Reserve.

I enjoyed the time I spent in the Army Reserve, but quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a career for me. After my eight year service obligation was completed, I resigned my commission. My resignation request was denied. I have resigned five times in the last two years and am approaching 10 years of service on an eight-year contract. I am now 32 years old and the contract that I signed as an 18-year-old at Notre Dame still affects my daily life. I have been told by Army reserve personnel that I can be retained until I am 50!

A month after I filed a federal lawsuit, I was transferred to a reserve unit in North Carolina (I am from Massachusetts) for the sole purpose of involuntary mobilization to Iraq. I am to be mobilized on April 28 if my motion for a preliminary injunction fails in federal court.

I am confident that I will prevail in my federal suit, as four other officers who previously filed lawsuits were successful. After the cases were filed and motions were made, the officers were granted their Honorable Discharges before going to trial. Unfortunately, these cases cannot be having a positive effect on recruiting. I don’t know of many 18-year-olds who want to make what they think is an eight-year decision but is slanted so that it directs the rest of their lives. I just hope that my suit results in a fifth Honorable Discharge.

On Sept. 6, 2004, after my second resignation was denied, I contacted both Father Edward Malloy and Father John Jenkins asking them for help in dealing with the Army, as the eight-year ROTC contracts being signed on Notre Dame’s campus didn’t appear to be really eight-year contracts according to the Army or the Department of Defense. Since Notre Dame provides the Department of Defense with hundreds of new officers annually (and since the Secretary of the Army is also an ND alum), I thought that Notre Dame would try to protect its students and alums against these deceitful practices that I described to the then-President and President-elect.

I received no response from then-President Malloy. I called his office and faxed a copy of my letter to him since he wasn’t receiving e-mails. I did receive a response from Jenkins, who explained as President-elect, he didn’t feel he had the authority to intervene in this situation and this was a contract that I entered into with the Army. At the time, I thought Jenkins’ explanation was fair as he hadn’t been elevated to President. However, my opinion changed on Nov. 30, 2004 when I found out that Jenkins, not yet the university president, was a catalyst in the firing of Tyrone Willingham, another contract controversy. I felt that his lack of authority explanation was insincere.

At the very least, Malloy or Jenkins could have asked someone from the Notre Dame legal team or law school to review the contracts being signed on campus to ascertain whether I was correct or to point out that in accordance with Page X, paragraph Z of the contract, the Army could actually keep me until I was 50. If I was correct, the University could have initiated a dialogue with the Department of Defense demanding that the terms on ROTC contracts be honored. Otherwise, the University could threaten to reconsider its relationship with all of its ROTC programs.

As Jenkins promotes “Catholic character,” should he also not look out for the 18-year-old students who might not realize that their signatures could bind them until they are 50? It seems immoral and downright wrong for the University to turn a blind eye to its students and alums as the Department of Defense turns an eight-year contract into a 28-year contract. To me, deceitful language by the military seems a lot more harmful to the students at Notre Dame than watching the Vagina Monologues.

Jonathan E. O’Reillyclass of 1996March 27