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Cadets adjust to military life

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, August 22, 2008

He’d been on campus for only four days, but freshman Army ROTC cadet candidate Dan Mulligan was already leading one of his platoon mates through a minefield.

Mulligan called out directions Thursday afternoon – walk towards me, stop, lift your feet – to his blind-folded partner as he navigated the mock minefield set up next to the Pasquerilla Center. Mulligan directed his teammate through the course and around the ‘mines’ – plastic plates weighted down with rocks – as an upperclassman timed him from the sideline.

The purpose of the event – one of six stations in the Notre Dame Army ROTC’s Irish Race – is to build teamwork and trust among the new members of the platoon.

Last Monday, students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross, Bethel, IUSB and Valparaiso arrived at Notre Dame to take part in ROTC orientation. Each branch of the ROTC program has its own orientation schedule, but all involve team-building exercises and an introduction to life in the military.

Cadet Sgt. Major Ryan Slaney, a junior at Notre Dame, said the Army ROTC’s orientation program gets the new cadets, most of whom are freshmen, integrated into the battalion. They introduce them to the various components of ROTC life at Notre Dame – getting up early, wearing the uniform and intense exercising.

To join the ROTC program, cadets have to pass a physical fitness test, which consists of hitting certain benchmarks during two minutes of sit-ups, two minutes of push-ups and a two-mile run.

Mulligan passed his test Wednesday morning.

“I’ve always known I’ve wanted to go into the military and since sixth grade, I’ve wanted to go here [Notre Dame], so it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.

Mulligan, and other cadets who pass the test, signed their contract with ROTC Friday for four years, with the option to leave after the first year.

Sophomore Christopher Bennett, also an Army cadet, said his freshman year ROTC orientation was a fun week and a primer on where the classrooms and other buildings are located on campus. Being in ROTC is an experience that few people get to have, he said.

“You get the normal college experience while being prepared to join the military,” he said.

This week, members of the Notre Dame Army ROTC battalion awoke each morning at 5 a.m. to begin their day. As part of the week’s itinerary, they went to Five Pines, Mich. to do a high ropes course and made a rope bridge over St. Mary’s Lake at Notre Dame.

This year, 28 students, mostly freshman, arrived on campus to pursue an Army cadet position. The Navy ROTC reported 37 new students and an Air Force ROTC representative said 20 were seeking cadet positions.

The ROTC program offers money and a guaranteed career when one graduates, Slaney said.

“If you want to serve your country, this is a great way to do it,” he said.

Linzi Meyering, a sophomore at Bethel College, decided just last week that she wanted to join the Army ROTC program.

“It’s an awesome way to pay for college,” she said. “And a great way to serve God and my country.”

The ROTC orientation ended Friday so freshmen could participate in their residence hall’s freshman orientation events.