SMC, Notre Dame midshipmen reflect on NROTC summer training camps
The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) prepares college students to serve as Naval officers after graduation. Eighty-four Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s undergraduates participate in this program. Known as “midshipmen,” students in the program this summer spent approximately a month completing various training courses, including spending time aboard active vessels and aircraft to prepare them to ultimately commission as officers.
Rising sophomores, known as third-class midshipmen, participated in the Naval Reserve’s Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) program, which served as an introduction to the different communities within or associated with the Navy, including aviation, surface service, subsurface service and the Marine Corps. Second-class and first-class midshipmen — rising juniors and seniors, respectively — completed “summer cruises,” which entailed experiencing naval service first-hand on a ship or submarine.
Captain Mark Prokopius, the commanding officer of Notre Dame NROTC, described the purpose of summer training as exposing midshipmen to both life in the Navy and to leadership decisions that are necessary as an active-duty officer.
“When they’re on cruise, they’re actually on active duty and subject to all the active duty rules,” he said. “It builds valuable experience to see from the enlisted perspective on the second-class cruise, and then [on the first-class cruise] to see from the officer’s perspective, who is the leader in front of those enlisted men.”
All midshipmen are required to complete summer training unless exempted by a conflict or disciplinary probation.
Kathleen Halloran, a second-class midshipman and a junior at Saint Mary’s, said she knew she wanted to serve her country from a young age after being inspired by her grandfather, a Marine veteran. Halloran said her summer experience — staying aboard a submarine — was enriched by the presence of women in positions of power.
“It was incredible being on the submarine surrounded by brilliant female officers, as female officers are currently not very common,” she said.
Halloran said her favorite part of the summer was spending time with five other women, who she said she got to know quite well, on the submarine.
Aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, Saint Mary’s junior Megan Mullaney furthered her interest in surface warfare. Mullaney spent each week shadowing a new person, but she said her favorite moments were spent shadowing flight deck control.
“It was really cool to get the opportunity to be on the flight deck when people were taking off and landing,” she said.
While the month spent aboard the ship was full of new learning opportunities, Mullaney said it came with challenges as well. She said her most challenging experience was constantly feeling in the way of others.
“Your job is to shadow and observe but you still feel you’re in the way because you are not doing a certain job,” Mullaney said.
Notre Dame sophomore and third-class midshipman Michael Terranova spent 19 days on an Ohio-class submarine embarking from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While his primary preference is in aviation, he said the cruise provided a valuable exposure to life in the Navy.
“It showed me that if the Navy tells me I have to do it, I can,” he said. “It was also a really informative experience to learn the submarine’s role in the navy, but I think most importantly it showed me what life in the Navy is like … I was able to see people doing their jobs, and I got at tiny picture of what life as an officer is like.”
Notre Dame senior and first-class midshipman Thomas Hart was assigned to Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. While previously interested in naval aviation, he said the experience, in which he was able to fly in an F-18 fighter jet, take-off from an aircraft carrier at sea and briefly pilot a jet, confirmed his choice to work towards becoming a pilot.
“It not only provided me with those flight experiences to see how cool flying was, but even more important was seeing how the community operated and seeing how the pilots interacted with each other,” he said. “The pilots I worked with were great guys and loved their jobs. I saw myself in that community. It’s really important to see if you fit in with the people, so I think that’s the right community for me.”