The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ROTC seniors to begin assignments

Sara Felsenstein | Friday, May 14, 2010

Thirty-nine Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets will be commissioned as officers at the Tri-Military ceremony in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Saturday.

The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. and will be followed by a reception in the Pasquerilla Center. The Army will commission 12 2nd lieutenants, the Air Force, 12 and the Marine Corps, six. The Navy will commission nine ensigns.

Senior Thomas Capretta, cadet battalion commander of the Army ROTC Fightin’ Irish Battalion, said the commissioning involves taking an oath and getting the rank of Second Lieutenant pinned on each cadet’s uniform.

Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe will be the speaker at the ceremony. Volpe, a Notre Dame alumnus, has had a long career in Army medicine, and has received various awards for his service.
After the ceremony, the students will officially be commissioned officers of the military. 

“Most will have four-year commitments, but some will have longer if their training costs more,” Col. Dennis Mitchell, commanding officer of the Air Force ROTC Unit, said. “For example, three will be going to one year of pilot training and will spend at least 10 years in the Air Force after training.”

The Navy also requires four years of active service, with aviators requiring up to eight years after they receive their qualification wings, Lt. William Fensterer, assistant professor of naval science, said.

Fensterer said Navy cadets will go to different locations depending on their preferences.
“We have some heading to Pilot Training, Surface Ships, Submarine Training, Marine Corps Basic School, one to SEAL Training and one to a Naval Medical Center,” he said.

The commissioning ceremony honors every graduating cadet in the ROTC program, but each senior also has the opportunity to do a private commissioning ceremony with his or her family at the Grotto or the east door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

“These are done mostly on Friday, with a few done on Saturday. I will be doing my private commissioning ceremony at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Grotto,” said Marina Rodriguez, a senior Army cadet.

While most ROTC seniors will go directly into the service after graduation, Rodriguez will delay her service a few years to enter medical school.

“I am actually in a slightly different situation than most of my peers. I received an education delay authorizing me to delay my service commitment in order to allow me to attend medical school starting in the fall,” Rodriguez said. “So, unlike my peers who will begin their branch training and transition to their assigned units this year, I will be attending University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.”

After finishing medical school, Rodriguez will be a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. She will have an eight-year service obligation that must be completed at the end of her residency.

“As of right now, I plan to make a career out of the Army and will likely serve at least 20 years,” she said.

Rodriguez said the most rewarding part of the ROTC program has been the strong friendships she built over the four years.

“My classmates and fellow members of the battalion are some of the best friends I could ever hope for,” she said. “I have grown a lot during my time in ROTC.”
Capretta also said the program has influenced his personal development and overall experience at Notre Dame.

“ROTC has been an integral part of my college experience. The cadre and recent alumni of the Fightin’ Irish Battalion have been great mentors to me, and have influenced me more than anyone else in the past four years,” Capretta said. “The cadets in program have become some of my best friends at Notre Dame.”

As cadet battalion commander of the Army ROTC Fightin’ Irish Battaltion, Capretta was responsible for training the 87 cadets currently in the battalion.

In November, Capretta will head to Ft. Benning, Ga. for infantry officer training. After completing his training, he will go to Ft. Carson, Colo. for his first permanent station.

“I’m not sure how long I will be in the Army. I can see a career, a four-year stint and anything in between as being possible right now,” he said.

Capretta said that after his four years of ROTC training, he feels ready to enter the Army.

“Speaking for my classmates, I think we all feel very well prepared for our first assignments in the real Army. The ROTC program here has done a great job of pushing us to improve ourselves,” Capretta said. “It has also given us many leadership opportunities to hone those skills that we will need as officers.”

Rodriguez agreed that she feels prepared to move on to the next step.

“The instructors here have done an excellent job in preparing us to enter the Army and to serve as leaders of our various units,” she said. “Joining ROTC was one of the best decisions I made during my time here at Notre Dame.”