For the past 100 years, USD has been home to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. The USD ROTC program was founded on March 22, 1919, under the request of USD president Robert L. Slagle. To celebrate their anniversary, they held their annual military ball on Saturday.
USD ROTC 1966 graduate Art Rush spoke at the event. Dan Sundbury, professor of military science, said they chose Rush particularly because he is one of the most senior cadets and he thought he would represent the life long commitment of the program for the anniversary celebration.
Sundbury said the ball is meant to honor members and celebrate their achievements.
“It’s not a four-year commitment. We really expect it for life. We are a part of a community,” he said.
Today, nearly 40 members are enrolled in ROTC at USD. Although USD’s ROTC program is smaller than many other college’s programs, it has been successful over the past century. The unit has produced 2,215 commissions, or graduating members, 30 colonels, 14 general officers and three Medal of Honors recipients.
“In the beginning, up until 1970, all military-aged males had to do two years of ROTC training. And then due to some political changes, because that was right around the end of Vietnam, they stopped doing that compensatory requirement,” Sundbury said. “Slowly the program has declined.”
ROTC is funded by the United States government, which means the ROTC program is a guest at USD. Past leaders of the ROTC signed agreements stating the expectations the program will meet in order to stay on campus.
“Our last agreement was in 1965, and It is called a DA65,” he said. “USD made a formal agreement that says they will host the program here and they will provide certain facilities and programs for us to do our training and we would agree to have 15 commissions a year.”
Despite that agreement, the required number of commissions has not been met since 1989.
“There are various reasons,” Sundbury said. “This is an affordable school, there is a strong National Guard so a lot of kids go to the National Guard, we are not by a big city so just being in Vermillion makes it hard for us to recruit and we are in the upper midwest so not many people know the difference between an officer and an enlisted soldier.”
Although USD’s ROTC program is the second smallest in the midwest region, Bailey Weavil, junior criminal justice major and ROTC cadet, said the program continues to be a success.
This year, for the first time since 1990, cadets won first place at the annual Task Force Ranger Challenge at Camp Ripley, MN.
“We are a smaller program, but being small has nothing to do with success when we work hard and we work together,” Weavil said. “Winning the competition was a big thing for us just because we did get our name out there more for USD.”
Sundbury said winning the competition has already led to an increase in recruits.
“Between last fall and this spring, we have increased by 14 cadets, which is incredible. We normally don’t see any increase between fall and spring,” he said. “We are finally fully staffed and we have a really talented recruiting scholarship officer and when you win it creates interest and inspires other people.”
Jake Preble, senior business administration major and ROTC member, said he thinks the program needs to continue focusing on recruitment to continue its success for another 100 years.
“Our recruiter does a great job at reaching out to not only the current college and high school students and National Guard members. So continuing that relationship with the National Guard and high schoolers and the university is going to continue to create a successful program,” Preble said.