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ROTC event draws units to ND

Carly Landon | Monday, March 22, 2010

The Notre Dame Navy ROTC program welcomed more than 100 Naval personnel from nearly 40 schools to its 15th annual Naval Leadership Weekend (NLW), themed “The Evolving Role of the Navy/Marine Corps Team Against Unconventional Warfare.”

“I chose the theme by just talking to different people about what is facing the naval forces today and how it is different from year’s pasts,” NLW organizer Arianna Cassani, a junior, said. “The purpose of Naval Leadership Weekend is to develop midshipmen’s leadership skills and ethical decision making abilities so they can better be prepared to enter the military when they commission.”

Junior Rochelle Rieger, a member of Notre Dame’s Navy ROTC, said 113 midshipmen and a total of 132 Naval personnel attended the event from 37 schools across the country.

“Each year we invite other ROTC units from around the country,” she said. “Everyone stayed at Sacred Heart Parish across St. Joe’s lake, and on Friday and Saturday we had symposiums for all the participants.”

Events of the weekend included speeches by noted Naval Marine officers. Commander Mark Becker spoke on leadership and being a junior officer in the Navy, and Commander Kris Doyle gave a speech on the new Littoral Combat Ship and how it relates to evolving warfare. 

Rieger said the weekend’s speakers provided valuable personal testimonies about some of the dangerous experiences they have had as Marines.

“On Friday, First Sgt. William Bodette told a lot of personal, anecdotal stories that were both funny and informative on what it would be like to be in combat,” Rieger said, “I think he was one of the favorites because you can’t really teach about war unless you’ve been in it. He gave the audience a real life, personal account.”

A panel titled “Addressing the Threat of Non-State Actors Within and Across State Boundaries: Our Rights and Duties” took place Saturday morning, and ROTC students could ask four panelists questions about becoming junior officers.

Rieger said Saturday’s later events were the most significant for her.

“The culminating and biggest event of the weekend was dinner on Saturday night. We all went to the Stadium press box for dinner. Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., one of the most respected officers in the Marine Corps, spoke at dinner,” Rieger said. “It was interesting to hear his thoughts on leadership, ethics and where our military is headed.”

Cassani said bringing Dunford to campus was not easy.

“It was really difficult contacting such a high-ranking officer as a midshipmen in order to ask him to speak,” Cassani said. “We really were so honored to have him, a three-star general, as our final speaker.”

Cassani also said having a young former Marine at the event was a valuable experience for attendees.

“In addition to the lieutenant general being a highlight, Mr. Jacob Cusack, a 2004 ND grad and former Marine, was another favorite,” she said. “He was really relatable, being so close to our age, and focused on what junior officers will be experiencing once commissioned and deployed.”

Cusack is now out of the Marines and attends Harvard Business School.

Cassani said she has been planning the event since August with a committee of ROTC sophomores and juniors.

“I think the best aspect of NLW is that it is put together completely by students. It is an endeavor put on by juniors and sophomores in college,” Rieger said. “Arianna deserves so much credit for the work she put into the event.”

Rieger said the weekend’s events were useful in educating the University as a whole about the ROTC program.

“We always get a lot of questions about all the people in uniform, so I think it is interesting for students outside of ROTC to know why there are people here in uniform learning about Notre Dame, taking over South Dining Hall and flooding DeBartolo,” Rieger said. “NLW is not only good for our ROTC unit, but also good for the school.”