Armed for Success: A glance into the Army ROTC program

by Jessica Stamp

At Youngstown State University and at many other universities around the United States, a program called the Army Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) helps train college students to become future officers to serve in the United States Army. Students can serve in active federal service, the National Guard or the Army Reserve when they graduate from YSU. In the Army ROTC program, the students are called cadets, which is simply a title and not a rank. Cadet Scotlund Shaffer, a sophomore Business Administration major at YSU, has been a part of the program since 2019. He works as an intern to help recruit people into the program, saying that it has been helpful for his business major.

“I’m hired through the program as an intern to work on recruiting…but recruiting is fun because I am a business major so it focuses on that marketing, dealing with others and working on impersonal skills. So it definitely benefits the major,” Shaffer said.

Cadets learn many in-person training skills, for instance, land navigation tactics, raids and basic tactics like how to run, attack and ambush. These skills are meant to build self-confidence and trust within themselves. The program focuses on learning leadership and teamwork with physical training to help build willpower and discipline. Currently, there are 30 cadets in the YSU program. To help bring freshmen and sophomores into the program, Army ROTC offers financial incentives to ROTC students through the YSU Foundation.

To the right, Cadet Scotlund Shaffer, a sophomore business administration major, accepting a shirt for becoming apart of the Army ROTC program. Photo courtesy of Scotlund Shaffer

According to YSU’s website, the Army ROTC program offers four, three, and two year scholarships to those that qualify (subject to availability). Scholarships include full tuition, a monthly stipend of $300-500 and a $1,200 book allowance. These scholarships incur a military obligation. The incentives are meant to help cadets focus on their studies rather than working at a part-time job.

Major Jared Elliss, chairperson for the Department of Military Science, which includes the ROTC program, explains that there is a significant financial incentive for cadets to join the program because their service can require sacrifice. At the age of 17, Maj. Elliss decided to enlist for the Army.

“It was something that I always wanted to do and I knew it was what I wanted to be a part of,” Maj. Elliss expressed.

There are some students who are initially interested in ROTC for the benefits. But like Maj. Elliss, other cadets join due to their curiosity and desire to take part in something. Cadet Sophia Patonis, a senior Criminal Justice major with a minor in Military Science at YSU, joined late into the ROTC program as a sophomore.

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Patonis was intrigued and thought it seemed interesting. From being in a gas chamber to learn to trust her equipment to being sent out into the woods to learn how to navigate, Patonis has learned how to become confident in decision making and to be a leader.

“It made me go out of my comfort zone and it made me do things I didn’t think I could do and I’ve enjoyed it for the most part…the program teaches us how to be future leaders,” Patonis said.

Cadets in the Army ROTC program pose for a picture before starting their exercise training. Photo courtesy of Scotlund Shaffer

All cadets write out a list, or what ROTC calls it a “dream sheet” of the branch locations where they would like to be posted. Out of those three or four options, cadets can get sent to any of the selected locations. After graduation, where cadets go is their decision. Cadets can become an active commissioned officer or go into the National Guard or the Army Reserve. An active commissioning officer position is highly competitive because so many cadets want to be a part of it but the military cannot take everyone.

Other cadets can go into the Army Reserve or National Guard. Unlike the active commissioned officer position, which is a full time job, going into the Army Reserve or National Guard is part-time and noncompetitive. Cadets can serve for a certain amount of years then get a civilian job in the major they went to college for. With the program teaching Patonis how to be more confident in making decisions, it allowed her to have a set plan for after graduation.

“I know where I’m going at this point because I know when I graduate, I’m not going to be uncertain about what I’m going to do like a lot of people I know. I have a set plan and it’s security that I like after graduation,” Patonis said.

Shaffer feels the same way as Patonis with the program having their future mapped out.

“It’s kind of unmatched with the job security because as soon as you graduate, you have a guaranteed job. So while other people are worrying about internships, I don’t have to because my future is already taken care of and it takes a lot of stress off my back.”