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Three ROTC branches grow by 100 members

Laura McCrystal | Friday, August 21, 2009

Notre Dame’s Naval, Army and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) welcomed its largest group of new members in several years, as 100 students arrived on campus one week early for their own orientation.

Notre Dame ROTC members include students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and other area colleges and universities.

Naval ROTC held orientation activities off-campus for the first time this year, Notre Dame senior and Battalion Commander Brad Towne said.

Eleven upperclassmen and three active duty servicemen accompanied the new midshipmen to Fort Custer, near Kalamazoo, Mich. They slept in the squad base and learned the fundamentals of military life, physical training, marching drill and land navigation, Towne said.

They also became the only freshman group in the nation to shoot M4 rifles during orientation.

“It’s a pretty intense orientation,” Towne said. “They really got to see what the military is like.”

At Fort Custer, the day lasted from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. without any downtime.

“I think it was a little bit more intense than I had expected,” freshman Quinn Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick both said that the intensity at Fort Custer was worthwhile because it was an introduction to military life.

“I felt like joining the Navy after my four years here would be a good way to serve my country,” freshman Billy Kearns said. “But it also pays for my education, which is a huge benefit.”

Army and Air Force ROTC members arrived on campus Monday morning for their orientation activities, which were held on campus.

The Air Force welcomed 30 new cadets this year, new student orientation commander Mallory Glass said.

Glass, a senior at Saint Mary’s, said that the Air Force orientation involved marching, physical training, group leadership projects and briefings to introduce students to ROTC.

“[The new cadets] come in with such open attitudes you can tell they’re excited to be here,” she said. “It’s neat to see their enthusiasm.”

Air Force ROTC orientation concluded Thursday evening with a swearing-in ceremony and drill demonstration, followed by a picnic for the new cadets and their families, Glass said.

“They should be really proud of what they’ve done,” Glass said.

Army ROTC had 33 new cadets at orientation this year, junior Army ROTC member Colin Raymond said. In an average year, there are only 20 new students, Raymond said.

“The program is growing, which is great,” he said. “It’s been great to have the extra energy.”

During orientation, Raymond and other Army ROTC upperclassmen led the new students through Basic Rifle Marksmanship as well as basic movements, marching, customs, drill and ceremony, Raymond said.

Freshman Andrew Simms said although the training was challenging, he enjoyed coming to campus early for Army ROTC.

“It’s long days but it’s been a lot of fun and it’s definitely worth it,” he said. “Part of [joining Army ROTC] was the scholarship and part of it is that going into the military is something I’ve always wanted to do.”