Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

West Point (II): Comment of the day, from a recent Army ROTC graduate

Here’s a comment that came in over the weekend that struck me as thoughtful, calm and informative — exactly what I like to see in the comments section. He makes the fourth point better than I did last year when I tried to address the issue. By Timwalsh300 Best Defense commenter A few thoughts from ...

hhd.fullerton.edu
hhd.fullerton.edu
hhd.fullerton.edu

Here's a comment that came in over the weekend that struck me as thoughtful, calm and informative -- exactly what I like to see in the comments section. He makes the fourth point better than I did last year when I tried to address the issue.

By Timwalsh300
Best Defense commenter

A few thoughts from a fairly recent ROTC graduate…

Here’s a comment that came in over the weekend that struck me as thoughtful, calm and informative — exactly what I like to see in the comments section. He makes the fourth point better than I did last year when I tried to address the issue.

By Timwalsh300
Best Defense commenter

A few thoughts from a fairly recent ROTC graduate…

1. I’d guess that the average USMA cadet receives better *military* training than the average ROTC cadet. We conducted a substantial volume of training at my school, and the standards were high, but resources were scarce. I went to airborne school, role-played as a guerrilla at Robin Sage, and did CTLT with an artillery unit, but most ROTC cadets do none of these things. I’ve met people from plenty of other schools that appeared to do the bare minimum: wear a uniform to class one day each week and then go to LDAC for a month before senior year. So the experience provided by ROTC varies wildly from one school or cadet to another.

2. In favor of ROTC: For four years, I had to make my own decisions in a world where there were few rules and little supervision. I had to be really self-motivated. As an ROTC cadet, if you wanted to skip class all semester, do drugs, or just get on a plane and fly to another country without telling anyone, you could, because there were really no systems in place to ensure accountability. Nobody is looking over an ROTC cadet’s shoulder. I think it was good preparation for being a junior officer, now that I have a commander who generally trusts me to do the right thing without having to check up on me all the time.

3. I believe I had a much broader experience than a typical USMA cadet, and I’m a more flexible and agile thinker because of it. I was one of maybe 200 cadets (from all services) in a school of 30,000 students from over 100 different countries. I was almost never in a class with another cadet. We constantly had to debate issues with people representing radically different viewpoints and values and agendas. How many USMA cadets have worked on a class project with someone who is openly homosexual or transgendered, a self-described socialist or anarchist, or someone who fiercely believes that U.S. troops are criminals for participating in illegal wars? I think there is some value in that.

4. I have to wonder about the quality of the academics at USMA. I laugh when I get emails telling me about the opportunity to become a professor. Nearly all of the professors I had in my major were PhD’s who had done important research and worked in industry. I couldn’t hold a candle to them; not after simply getting my bachelor’s, working as an Army officer in an unrelated field for six years, and then getting my master’s degree.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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