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ROTC commissioning to take place Saturday

Matt Bramanti | Thursday, May 13, 2004

Saturday morning, 82 Notre Dame ROTC students will have one thing in common – they will all make the transition from college students to professional military officers. Soon, however, they will pursue diverse careers around the world.At the annual commissioning ceremony Saturday, the cadets and midshipmen will receive commissions signed by President Bush. In all, 53 seniors will be commissioned second lieutenants in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. The Navy will commission 29 new ensigns.At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering III, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, will address the cadets and their families. Obering, a decorated two-star general, is a 1973 Notre Dame ROTC alumnus and former F-4 Phantom fighter pilot. Obering commended the military’s training programs at Notre Dame. “The values that Notre Dame instills in its students are extremely close to the ones we honor in the military,” he said. “You have to pay very close attention to your own personal integrity and honesty, achieve excellence in everything you do and put service before your own personal interests.”Professor of military science Lt. Col. Kelly Jordan, who commands the Army ROTC battalion, said his newly-minted officers will undergo extensive training following their commissioning. “They [will] go to the officer basic course for 16-24 weeks of basic officer training in their specialty,” Jordan said. “Some will go to specialty schools for further training.” These specialty schools, which last 3-9 weeks, include coveted infantry assignments like airborne, Ranger and jumpmaster schools, as well as support tasks like hazardous cargo handling and maintenance officer duties.Following training, the cadets will be sent to divisional units across the country, where they will prepare for deployment overseas.”We have people going to Germany, Korea and in the continental U.S.,” he said. “Every single one of them will be in a rotation to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.”Most students will fulfill their eight-year commitment by serving four years of active duty, followed by four years in the Reserves or National Guard.In praising the quality of his cadets, Jordan cited a 1999 RAND Corp. study, which concluded that ROTC cadets at “elite high-cost private schools” rise through the ranks at higher rates than most other military training programs.”The officers we produce are noticeably more effective in the Army,” Jordan said.Jordan, who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy and Ohio State, said Notre Dame cadets compare favorably to graduates of West Point and other ROTC programs.”My military history class at Notre Dame outperformed honors students at West Point,” Jordan said. “And they’re the best of the best.””Intellect and character are really what set them apart. Notre Dame develops character in a positive way, the most effective way in the nation.”The Navy ROTC battalion will commission 29 ensigns, most of whom will report to initial training soon after graduation, said Capt. Jim Shelton, the battalion’s commanding officer. “The majority will be going to some kind of training,” Shelton said. “We need to get them up to speed.Specialized schools include flight training, where would-be aviators spend 18 months at Pensacola, Fla. Shelton said several of the new ensigns in the surface fleet could be on their ships within weeks of graduation. Surface warfare officers have an obligation to serve four years of active duty.”For some of these folks, it’s pretty immediate that they’ll be facing front-line jobs,” he said. “The Navy pretty much has a philosophy that if something happens anywhere in the world, we’re ready to go at a very short notice.”Submariners will attend six months of training at the Navy’s nuclear power program, followed by six months of “prototype training” – work on a decommissioned submarine or mock-up – and attendance at the submarine school in Groton, Conn. Submarine officers incur a five-year commitment of active duty.The Marine Corps will get five new second lieutenants from the commissioning ceremony. Following graduation, the Marines will attend the Basic School in Quantico, Va., where they will learn the tactics and theory of leading a platoon of riflemen.Shelton said the Notre Dame Navy ROTC program consistently produces quality officers. “From an educational point of view, they’re among the best,” he said. “They’re almost always going to end up near the top of all the officers.”Col. Michael Zenk, commander of the Air Force detachment, said his 36 seniors will start active duty anywhere from five to 75 days after their commissioning. Like members of the other services, Air Force second lieutenants will quickly be deployed to units in various locations.”We have people going to Guam, a couple going to Italy, a couple going to Alaska,” he said. “The rest are sprinkled across the [continental] U.S.”Six seniors will attend a year-long pilot training in Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Another popular program is an eight-month training rotation for intelligence officers. Zenk said he was particularly proud of the two cadets who will have their service delayed so they may attend law school. Only 10 cadets nationwide received similar educational delays.”It’s because of the quality of our cadets, plain and simple,” Zenk said.He said that, after training, many of the fresh second lieutenants could end up in hot spots around the world.”We own Baghdad International [Airport],” Zenk said. “There is also a pretty big presence in Afghanistan.”Regardless of the branch, Obering said his remarks to the cadets and midshipmen will focus on their accomplishments and responsibilities.”I’m going to tell them how proud I am of them,” he said. “I’m going to tell them how critical they are to this nation.”