Among the 25,000 students attending Stony Brook University, there are 22 currently in training through the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC.
“These students are tight,” Capt. Jerry Blackwell, one of the instructors for the program, said. “We make up, what, less than one percent of the population? We’re a community. We’re a family.”
Stony Brook University is one of the 16 out of 64 State University of New York schools that offer Army ROTC programs. Through training, cadets learn the skills necessary to commission as a second lieutenant to serve on active-duty, reserve or national guard status.
“I’m going on to active-duty status, which means the army is going to be my full-time job,” Andrew Check, a senior history major, said. “I have a seven-year full active-duty contract. I’m going to be commissioned as a military intelligence officer.”
Check had always wanted to pursue a career in civil service. As a child, he dreamed of being a firefighter. As a senior in high school, he worked as an emergency medical technician. After high school, he was set on joining the military.
“It sounds a little cliché, but 9/11 changed me,” Check said. “For me, being a New Yorker, it’s right there. You see it. It was an awe-inspiring, shocking experience that made me want to help protect the country and do my part.”
Another contributing factor in the decision to join ROTC is the support and inspiration from family and loved ones.
Andrew Pryor, a freshman undeclared major, said he drew inspiration from family members in the military. He said his father had the biggest influence on his decision to join ROTC. Although his father was not in the military himself, he was a firefighter and a police officer who Pryor said encouraged him heavily to serve.
Kenny Correa, a sophomore business management major, said he was inspired by his high school girlfriend who is currently attending the United States Naval Academy. He also credits the attraction of scholarships for his decision to join ROTC.
Check agreed, saying, “I’m honestly getting paid to go to college right now. Whatever money they give me that isn’t going towards material and books, I just keep. Plus, on top of that, all contracted cadets get a stipend every month from the army.”
Cadets may be contracted in order to receive scholarships within the ROTC program. This means that they will be required to fulfill a certain number of years of service after graduation.
However, not all cadets in the program are required to serve. Some may choose to start the program without signing a contract and decide by their junior year if they wish to continue. About 18 or 19 of the 22 students in the program will be commissioned, Blackwell said.
The program enforces qualities useful for any intended career path, regardless of whether a cadet is contracted or not.
“It has instilled a very good work ethic,” Pryor said. “I don’t take hard work for granted. It made me become more disciplined and if I don’t follow through with the military, I will still have that work ethic from it my whole life.”
“They have some experience of leadership, selfless service, duty and honor that someone not in the program may not know about,” Blackwell said. “That may be something that separates them when they go toward whatever goals they have.”
Another thing that carries on, Blackwell said, is the friendships.
“I’m pretty sure they have friends outside of the program, but I would be confident to say that their closest friends, the people they can count on, are the people within the program,” Blackwell said. “As they go through military recruitment, I’m pretty confident that they’ll still keep in touch.”
FEATURE IMAGE CREDIT: Texas Army ROTC/Flickr