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Army ROTC battalion wins top award

LESLEY STEVENSON | Wednesday, December 4, 2013


The Notre Dame Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) battalion outperformed the other 272 collegiate ROTC programs across the nation to win the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award, according to a University press release.

The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award is considered the “Heisman Trophy” of Army ROTC and honors one outstanding ROTC battalion each year for success in military science and academic programs, according to the press release. The Fightin’ Irish Battalion also won the award in 1986 and 1988.

Lieutenant Colonel John Polhamus, professor of military science, said the battalion’s cadets are the reason ND Army ROTC received the award.

“We always say that this is truly a cadet-driven battalion, and to me this award really validates that and it goes to show how well-rounded our cadets are,” Polhamus said. “The award is really about them. 

“To earn the first place honor out of [273 programs] speaks volumes. That goes to show how well our cadets are performing and how well respected they are once they’re commissioned.”

Master Sergeant Marshall Yuen, senior military science instructor, said he was glad the cadets were honored for all the work they put in above and beyond their regular courses. 

“It’s nice to see [the cadets] get recognized on a national level for that hard work that they put in there because they do put in a lot more work than the average college student does,” Yuen said. “They have all their academics and normal Notre Dame things that they have to do on top of all of this Army stuff they have to do.”

President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. “Monk” Malloy presented the award to Polhamus and senior cadet and battalion commander Chris Lillie during the men’s basketball game versus Army on Nov. 24, Lillie said.

“We actually requested Father Malloy. He’s been a big proponent of ROTC on campus,” Lillie said.

Polhamus said having the ceremony during the Army game highlighted the fact ROTC cadets are peers of those studying at West Point.

“I’m an Army grad,” Polhamus said. “I’ve always preached, having been on both sides of the fence now – West Point as well as ROTC – that Notre Dame cadets are absolutely on par with West Point in every respect.

“So I thought it was very appropriate to be recognized at the Notre Dame-Army game to show that there are others out there, other than West Point, who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way and be America’s future leaders.”

All members of the Fightin’ Irish Battalion marched onto the court during the halftime event, which included a presentation by the color guard and a video highlighting the battalion’s current members and alumni.

Notre Dame Army ROTC has a history of distinction among ROTC programs. The Fightin’ Irish Battalion earned the U.S. Army’s Cadet Command MacArthur Award, which recognizes to the top school in each of the eight regional ROTC brigades, in 2012 and 2013, Polhamus said. Notre Dame is one of only two schools ever to win the MacArthur Award twice in a row.

“I have a suspicion that the reason we were nominated [for the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award] is that we won back-to-back MacArthur awards,” Polhamus said. “Those designate us as the top program in our brigade, so of the 40 schools in our brigade we earned that designation.”

Senior cadet and company commander Macklin Wagner said winning a MacArthur Award helps, but does not guarantee, success with the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America Award.

“It’s more like a BCS than it is a playoff system,” Wagner said. “I’d say it’s definitely more likely to be from one of those schools [that win a MacArthur Award].”

Lillie said the potential for recruiting new members was a positive byproduct of winning the award and receiving it at a public event.

“It’s kind of a recruiting tool on campus,” he said. “We don’t have very good visibility … so these kinds of things [help us with] getting our name out there and showing the campus that we actually have a good program here.”

ROTC cadets receive scholarships once they commit to serving in the Army after graduation, and one way the Army ranks battalions is by measuring how many scholarship students continue in their ROTC programs, Wagner said.

“Part of the criteria in the award is how many cadets you retain that are on scholarship,” he said. “If people quit and get rid of their scholarship then that reflects poorly on the program in general but also in terms of the award.”

Wagner said physical fitness of the overall battalion also counts heavily in determining the award recipient. He said the battalion must submit physical training (PT) scores to the brigade leaders once per semester for each cadet.

“There are three events: pushup, situp and two-mile run,” Wagner said. “It boils down to a 300-point score.”

The rising senior class attends an intensive four-week evaluation course during the summer, Lillie said. More than 5,000 cadets are ranked from first to last based on their performance in activities testing their physical, tactical and leadership skills.

“Our program had one of the highest averages in the nation with these last summer’s scores,” Lillie said.

Despite the accolades, preparing cadets to enter the army and serve their country remains the chief priority, Yuen said.

“These cadets, they have an awesome responsibility once they leave college,” Yuen said. “They’re going to be leaders in the Army, what we call the nation’s greatest resource. 

“We try to impart on them that it’s not just about them once they get out there and start serving as officers in the army. It’s about the Army, their soldiers, soldiers’ families and their country all rolled up into that awesome responsibility that they’ll have in a very short amount of time from now.”

Contact Lesley Stevenson at [email protected]