ROTC recruitment up as fighting continues

By Nicola Crean

In the Monday, April 7 edition of The Daily Illini, the article titled, “ROTC recruitment up as fighting continues,” reported freshman in LAS Nick Schuetter was a member of the Army ROTC. Schuetter is a member of the Navy ROTC.

The following is the story as it appeared in print that day.

In the midst of the ongoing war in Iraq and U.S. involvement in the global fight against terror, the University’s ROTC program recruitment remains strong.

“I figure that somebody, either collective or as an individual, has had to fight in wars throughout the years,” said Nick Schuetter, Army ROTC and freshman in LAS. “So why not me?”

According to Captain Daniel Heim, Scholarships and Enrollment Officer for the University’s ROTC program, the typical freshman class consists of an average of 30 students.

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The current freshman class, however, was larger than the past year. Also, since January 2007, there has been a significant increase in enrollment of women and minorities.

“Parents are very wary of their sons or daughters joining the Army right now, and some students are wary as well,” Heim said. “But we give them all the training necessary to conduct safe and successful operations, whether they are called overseas or called to a humanitarian assistance mission.”

Upon completion of the program and graduation from the University, ROTC students are required to serve from four to six years of active duty, depending on the type of scholarship they received. Some students are cautious of signing up because of this requirement, but it is not guaranteed that they will be sent abroad, Heim said.

“Most understand that this is the situation with which we are faced. Most recognize that this war is better fought overseas with our military than on our own soil with armies of doctors, police officers, firefighters and clergymen,” Heim said.

Nick Pecoraro, Navy ROTC and freshman in LAS, said that the war in Iraq and the possible risk of being deployed did not have any impact on his decision to join.

“I love this environment, and the honor that every midshipman has and carries with him. I love my country and believe that it is every man’s duty as a citizen to serve his country,” Pecoraro said.

Students enrolled in the program have until their sophomore year to decide whether to continue with the program. Of the average 30 students that begin the program in their freshman year, it usually falls to about 20 students that remain enrolled in ROTC, according to Heim.

“We’re always looking to improve retention through regular counseling, mentoring of our cadets and getting to know what the students want out of the programs and the Army and see how we can best help,” Heim said.

Pecoraro recommends the program to anyone who is interested.

“It teaches you a lot about who you are and what you are capable of. It also gives you a sense of responsibility that you could never find anywhere else,” Pecoraro said.

Schuetter says the ROTC program has completely changed his outlook on himself even since the beginning of this year.

“Most of all, I now see a challenge and go toward it rather than shy away from it. It has given me the confidence to confront larger problems and stressful situations,” Schuetter said.

Heim said there is a lot of potential and time for the U.S. military position in the world to change before the incoming freshmen graduate. As of right now, the earliest potential recruits could be deployed would be in 2012, he said.

“I’ve never met anyone – student or parent – who actively wants to go to war, but our cadets understand that if called, they’ll go and serve proudly,” Heim said.