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The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based, officer commissioning program, predominantly in the United States. It is designed as a college elective that focuses on leadership development, problem solving, strategic planning, and professional ethics.

The U.S. Armed Forces and a number of other national militaries, particularly those countries with strong historical ties to the United States, have ROTC programs. The Republic of the Philippinesestablished its program in 1912, with the creation of the first unit at the University of the Philippines during American colonial rule. ROTC in the Republic of South Korea started in 1963; while Taiwan created its own program in 1997.

File:US Navy NRTOC 040508-N-2383B-377.jpg

Newly graduated and commissioned officers of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) Unit Hampton Roads stand at attention as they are applauded during the Spring Commissioning Ceremony

ROTC produces officers in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces except the U.S. Coast Guard. ROTC graduates constitute 56 percent of U.S. Army, 11 percent of U.S. Marine Corps, 20 percent of U.S. Navy, and 41 percent of U.S. Air Force officers, for a combined 39 percent of all active duty officers in the Department of Defense.[1] The Philippine-based National ROTC Alumni Association (NRAA) estimates that 75 percent of the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines come from ROTC.[2]

With the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard, each of the U.S. Armed Forces offer competitive, merit-based scholarships to ROTC students, often covering full tuition for college. U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force ROTC students are referred to as cadets, while U.S. Naval ROTC students are known as midshipmen; these terms coincide with their service academy counterparts. The Naval ROTC program commissions both U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps officers. The U.S. Coast Guard sponsors only a JROTC program.

Army ROTC units are organized as brigades, battalions, and companies. Air Force ROTC units are detachments with the students organized into wings, groups, squadrons, and flights, like the active Air Force. Naval ROTC units are organized into Naval battalions. If the Marine students are integrated with the Navy students, there are companies; but having the Navy students in departments and divisions like a ship, and the Marines in a separate company is only done when an ROTC unit has sufficient members to warrant an extra division.

History of U.S. ROTC

The concept of ROTC in the United States began with the Morrill Act of 1862 which established the land-grant colleges. Part of the federal government's requirement for these schools was that they include military tactics as part of their curriculum, forming what became known as ROTC. The college from which ROTC originated is Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Norwich was founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.[3]


Army ROTC cadets on a field training exercise

Until the 1960s, many major universities required compulsory ROTC for all of their male students. However, because of the protests that culminated in the opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, compulsory ROTC was dropped in favor of voluntary programs.[4] In some places ROTC was expelled from campus altogether, although it was always possible to participate in off-campus ROTC.

In recent years, concerted efforts are being made at some Ivy League universities that have previously banned ROTC, including Harvard and Columbia, to return ROTC to campus.[5] In the 21st century, the debate often focuses around the Congressional don't ask, don't tell law, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, which forbids homosexuals serving in the United States military from disclosing their sexual orientation at the risk of expulsion. Some schools believe this legal mandate would require them to waive or amend their non-discrimination policies. The Supreme Court ruled in March 2006 that they are entitled to hold this opinion, but at the expense of federal funding (see Solomon Amendment).

Under current law, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element.[6]

  • The first are the programs at the six senior military colleges, also known as military schools. These institutions grant baccalaureate degrees (at a minimum) and organize all or some of their students into a corps of cadets under some sort of military discipline. Those participating in the cadet program must attend at least 2 years of ROTC education.
  • The second are programs at "civilian colleges." As defined under Army regulations, these are schools that grant baccalaureate or graduate degrees and are not operated on a military basis.
  • The third category is programs at military junior colleges (MJC). These are military schools that provide junior college education (typically A.S. or A.A. degree). These schools do not grant baccalaureate degrees but meet all other requirements of military colleges (if participating in the Early Commissioning Program), and cadets are required to meet the same military standards as other schools (if enrolled in ECP), as set by Army Cadet Command. Cadets can be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army Reserve/Army National Guard as graduating sophomores. Upon commissioning, these lieutenants are required to complete their bachelors degree at another institution (of the lieutenant's choosing) while serving in their units. Upon receiving their bachelors, ECP lieutenants can assess active duty and go onto active duty as a first lieutenant. Only the Army currently offers an Early Commissioning Program. In time of war, MJC's have played a significant role in producing officers for the Army. During the Vietnam war, the requirement to complete one's bachelor degree was not in effect. Therefore, upon commissioning, LT's went straight onto active duty.

One difference between civilian colleges and the senior or junior military colleges is enrollment option in ROTC. ROTC is voluntary for students attending civilian colleges and universities; however, with few exceptions (as outlined in both Army regulations and federal law), it is required of students attending the senior and junior military colleges. Another major difference between the senior military colleges and civilian colleges is that under federal law, graduates of the SMCs are guaranteed active duty assignments if requested.[7]

U.S. Army ROTC


U.S. Army ROTC Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

The modern Army ROTC was created by the National Defense Act of 1916 and commissioned its first class of lieutenants in 1920. It was patterned after the British Officers Training Corps, which supplied most of the British officers in World War I.

Army ROTC Progression

For a cadet who takes only the first two years of the ROTC program (Basic Course), there is no military obligation, unless the cadet is a 3-4 year scholarship cadet or has other specific scholarships. In order to progress to the last two years of the program (Advanced Course), the cadet must contract with the United States Army, electing to serve on either Active Duty or the Reserves (Army National Guard or Army Reserve).

Basic Course

Military Science I Year (MSI)

This year serves as the cadets’ first introduction to the Army. Topics covered include military courtesy, military history, basic first aid, basic rifle marksmanship, land navigation, rapelling, fundamentals of leadership, map orienteering, field training, and drill and ceremony.

Military Science II Year (MSII)

The second year is an expansion of the topics taught in the first year of the program. Cadets are introduced to tactics, troop leading procedures, basics of operations orders, and ethics.

Advanced Course

Military Science III Year (MSIII)

The third year marks the beginning of the Advanced Course. While non-scholarship cadets may take the first two years with no military obligation, third- and fourth-year students must sign a contract incurring a military obligation to serve Active Duty or in the National Guard or Reserve once commissioned as a second lieutenant. Cadets may be eligible for the Advanced Course if the following criteria are met:

    • The cadet has prior military service OR
    • The cadet took three or more years of JROTC in high school OR
    • The cadet has completed the first two years of the program (Basic Course) OR
    • The cadet has graduated the Leaders Training Course (formerly Basic Camp) at Ft. Knox AND
    • The cadet has completed 54 credits (at least 60 preferred) of college coursework.

The course sequence in this year is mainly focused on the application of leadership and small-unit tactics. Cadets are assigned rotating leadership positions within the School Battalion and are evaluated on their performance and leadership abilities while in those positions. Third-year cadets practice briefing operations orders, executing small-unit tactics, leading and participating in physical training, and preparing for successful performance at the five week Leader Development and Assessment Course during the summer following the third year. Attendance at the course is mandatory.

Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC)

The Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) (formerly Advanced Camp) is a paid five-week leadership course conducted at Fort Lewis, Washington, during the summer. Typically, cadets attend LDAC during the summer between their first and second years in the Advanced Course. At LDAC, cadets take on various leadership roles and are evaluated on their performance and leadership abilities in those positions. Cadets also participate in adventure training, to include: confidence and obstacle courses, rappelling, water safety, weapons firing, and patrolling. Cadets must attend and complete this course to earn an Army commission.

Military Science IV Year (MSIV)

This is the final year of the ROTC program and the main focus is towards preparing cadets to become successful lieutenants in the Army upon graduation and commissioning. Senior cadets apply for their branches (career fields) of interest in the fall and receive the branching results from the ROTC selection board in the winter. Cadets are assigned cadet battalion staff positions and are responsible for evaluating MS III cadets and executing training operations and missions.

Notable Army ROTC graduates

In 1960, General George H. Decker became the first ROTC graduate named chief of staff of the Army (although General of the Army George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the Army during WWII, was a product of the Virginia Military Institute, he technically received a direct commission, since the modern-day ROTC program had not officially been established when he graduated). General Colin Powell was the first ROTC graduate named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a graduate of the City College of New York.

Chiefs of staff of the Army or Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to come out of Army ROTC include:

  • Chiefs of Staff of the Army
  • Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Virginia Military Institute holds the record among ROTC schools for the most general and flag officers produced, with 265 as of 2006.[8] The University of Oregon has produced the highest number of general officers out of the civilian ROTC schools, with a total of 44.[9] Texas A&M University produces more officers than any other ROTC program, largely because of the university's long history as a military college.[10]

U.S. Naval ROTC

The Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926; in 1932, the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program.

U.S. Air Force ROTC

The first Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps (then Air ROTC) units were established between 1920 and 1923 at the University of California at Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the University of Washington, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University. After World War II, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower established Air Force ROTC units at 77 colleges and universities throughout the United States.

U.S. Coast Guard ROTC

There are no current ROTC programs sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, but there is a Direct Commissioning program for graduates of maritime academies. The Direct Commission Maritime Academy Graduate Program is available to individuals who hold a degree from a qualifying state or federal Maritime Academy and hold a Third Mate or Third Assistant Engineer license, or a degree major in Marine Environmental Protection or a related field. Maritime Academy Graduates have education and training that enhances the Coast Guard's ability to carry out its operational missions. Individuals selected will serve as a Coast Guard Reserve Officer on full-time active duty. In addition, there is only one JROTC program that is sponsored by the Coast Guard. The Mako Battalion is based in the Maritime and Science Technology (MAST) Academy High school in Miami Florida.

See also


  1. Population Representation 2004 - Active Component Officers
  2. GMA's Speech - National ROTC Alumni Assoc
  3. Images of Its Past. History of Norwich University. Norwich University. URL accessed on 2006-11-20.
  4. The Fight Against Compulsory R.O.T.C.. Free Speech Movement Archives. Free Speech Movement Archives. URL accessed on 2006-11-20.
  5. Advocates for ROTC. Advocates for ROTC. URL accessed on 2006-11-23.
  6. AR 145-1 (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). Army Regulation. United States Army. URL accessed on 2006-11-16.
  7. 10 USC 2111a. United States Code. Legal Information Institute. URL accessed on 2006-11-16.
  8. Alumni. VMI Profile. VMI. URL accessed on 2006-11-20.
  9. University of Oregon ROTC History. University of Oregon Army ROTC. University of Oregon. URL accessed on 2006-11-20.
  10. ROTC Participation. About the Corps. TAMU. URL accessed on 2006-11-20.

Further reading

  • Boykins, R. (1993). The relationship among leadership, empowerment, and academic achievement for Black students: A case study of the South Mountain High School JROTC program: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Brandt, W. R. (1975). The values and purpose in life of United States Air Force Reserve Officer Candidates: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Caine, B. T., & Schlenker, B. R. (1979). Role position and group performance as determinants of egotistical perceptions in cooperative groups: Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied Vol 101(2) Mar 1979, 149-156.
  • Card, C. (1994). The military ban and the ROTC: A study in closeting: Journal of Homosexuality Vol 27(3-4) 1994, 117-146.
  • Card, J. J. (1978). Career commitment processes in the young adult years: An illustration from the ROTC/Army career path: Journal of Vocational Behavior Vol 12(1) Feb 1978, 53-75.
  • Card, J. J., & Farrell, W. S. (1983). Nontraditional careers for women: A prototypical example: Sex Roles Vol 9(10) Oct 1983, 1005-1022.
  • Cassel, R. N., & Ritter, D. L. (1999). Assessing the democratic maturity and self-fulfillment of 154 Air Force high school JROTC cadets: Journal of Instructional Psychology Vol 26(1) Mar 1999, 3-6.
  • Cassel, R. N., & Stroman, S. D. (1974). Evaluation of the UMW Computerized Decision Development System for use with ROTC students: Journal of Instructional Psychology Vol 1(1) Win 1974, 12-22.
  • Chen, Y.-Y. (1993). The effects of background characteristics and college experiences on military career choice and personal development of ROTC cadets: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Cheuvront, J. B. (1991). The effects of security training on secret keeping by Army ROTC cadets: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Dapra, R. A., Zarrillo, D. L., Carlson, T. K., & Teevan, R. C. (1985). Fear of failure and indices of leadership utilized in the training of ROTC cadets: Psychological Reports Vol 56(1) Feb 1985, 27-30.
  • Decker, P. J., & Cornelius, E. T. (1981). The effect on leniency of justifying performance ratings to a supervisor: Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied Vol 108(2) Jul 1981, 211-218.
  • Dumas, G. C. (1978). A study of the relationship of organizational climate perceptions to leadership potential among college Army ROTC students: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Feldman, P., & Uhlig, G. E. (1984). Comparing the computer literacy for freshman and senior college Army ROTC students: College Student Journal Vol 18(3) Fal 1984, 257-260.
  • Fiedler, F. E., & Mahar, L. (1979). A field experiment validating contingency model leadership training: Journal of Applied Psychology Vol 64(3) Jun 1979, 247-254.
  • Fisher, A. H., Orend, R. J., & Rigg, L. S. (1973). Career potential among ROTC enrollees: A comparison of 1972 and 1973 survey results. Oxford, England: Air Force Human Resources Lab, Manp.
  • Flannery, P. A. (1980). The relationships between success in military training and certain personality and motivational factors: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Frost, D. E. (1981). The effects of interpersonal stress on leadership effectiveness: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Funk, S. L. (1989). The relationship between Army Officer Selection Battery (OSB) scores and performance at ROTC advanced camp: An investigation of OSB validity: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Garland, J. B. (1988). Leadership development through Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC): Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Gerow, M. H. (1984). The relationship of sex, academic major, and competition to performance on military tasks: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Gilford, S. W. (1984). Aggression and hostility of ROTC college students and non-ROTC college students as measured by the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Hunsaker, P. L. (1978). Current developments in leadership training simulations: Psychological Reports Vol 43(1) Aug 1978, 115-125.
  • Hunt, E. J., Koopman, E. J., & Langston, W. J. (1977). Ready for inspection: Sexism in JROTC: Education Vol 98(2) Win 1977, 122-127.
  • Jordan, J. L. (1989). Effects of sex on peer ratings of U.S. Army ROTC cadets: Psychological Reports Vol 64(3, Pt 1) Jun 1989, 939-944.
  • Kaufman, G. G. (1972). An examination of the nomination paradigm of peer ratings: Dissertation Abstracts International Vol.
  • Levenson, H. (1975). Exposure to the military experience and level of moral reasoning: Perceptual and Motor Skills Vol 41(2) Oct 1975, 394.
  • Machir, D. F. (1992). A comparative study between Navy Junior ROTC cadets and general population students on measures of dogmatism, personality type, and self-esteem: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Mangelsdorff, A. D. (1973). Habituation to scenes of violence: Dissertation Abstracts International Vol.
  • Mathieu, J. E. (1985). A perception based integrative theory of individual behavior in organizations: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Mathieu, J. E. (1988). A causal model of organizational commitment in a military training environment: Journal of Vocational Behavior Vol 32(3) Jun 1988, 321-335.
  • Mathieu, J. E. (1990). A test of subordinates' achievement and affiliation needs as moderators of leader path-goal relationships: Basic and Applied Social Psychology Vol 11(2) Jun 1990, 179-189.
  • Mathieu, J. E. (1991). A cross-level nonrecursive model of the antecedents of organizational commitment and satisfaction: Journal of Applied Psychology Vol 76(5) Oct 1991, 607-618.
  • Mattoon, J. S. (1994). Instructional control in part- and whole-task training. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Officer, A. D. (1974). The development of a rationale to determine a need for a culture conflict training program designed to facilitate positive racial attitudes in college Army ROTC cadets: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Pedersen, D. M., & Gividen, J. R. (1982). Differences between ROTC and non-ROTC students in perception of self, others, and cadets: Perceptual and Motor Skills Vol 55(3, Pt 1) Dec 1982, 811-815.
  • Petty, M. M. (1972). The effects of assigned position, experience, and training upon performance in a leaderless group discussion: Dissertation Abstracts International Vol.
  • Petty, M. M., & Pryor, N. M. (1974). A note on the predictive validity of initiating structure and consideration in ROTC training: Journal of Applied Psychology Vol 59(3) Jun 1974, 383-385.
  • Pierce, L. G., & Geyer, P. D. (1991). Combining intention with investment to predict withdrawal behavior: Journal of Social Psychology Vol 131(1) Feb 1991, 117-124.
  • Richman, I. S. (1972). The differential reaction to simulated participative job redesign as a function of intrinsic-extrinsic need orientation: Dissertation Abstracts International Vol.
  • Roberts, W. E. (1992). Leadership, citizenship and self-reliance: A comparison of Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) high school senior cadets and non-JROTC high school seniors: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Schwarting, G. E. (1986). The effects of U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps summer training on students at selected colleges and universities with respect to certain developmental tasks: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Sholl, M. J., & Egeth, H. E. (1982). Cognitive correlates of map-reading ability: Intelligence Vol 6(2) Apr-Jun 1982, 215-230.
  • Stabingas, S. F. (1985). A comparison of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and volunteer accessions to the Army Nurse Corps in terms of their achievement, performance, and perceptions of current duty and military issues: A descriptive study: Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Thompson, K. S., Clarke, A. C., & Dinitz, S. (1974). Reactions to My-Lai: A visual-verbal comparison: Sociology & Social Research Vol 58(2) Jan 1974, 122-129.
  • Warren, C. A., & DeLora, J. S. (1978). Student protest in the 1970s: The Gay Student Union and the military: Urban Life Vol 7(1) Apr 1978, 67-90.

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