How the Pittsburgh Army ROTC Turns Diplomas Into Gold Bars

It’s 6am and you’re awake. You’re lying in your bed in your college dorm room listening to the noise outside. This time you decide to get up and find out what that noise is. Why it’s the Three Rivers Battalion Army ROTC cadets, running past the dorms in unison chanting a cadence. You’ve seen the cadets on campus before. Sometimes they are in uniform, but most of the time they look just like every other college student. You may even be curious about the events they have and the benefits you’ve heard of. Once you’ve taken the time to talk to an Army ROTC cadet, you find out there are a lot of reasons why cadets are so willing to be up this early. Here’s how cadets leverage their paper diplomas into the gold bars of an Army lieutenant.

What is ROTC?

Army ROTC is the Army’s “Reserve Officers’ Training Corp”, and was established when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act of 1916. This college based program offers military science classes and instruction that enhance one’s college experience and prepares students for service as officers in the regular Army, Army Reserves, or National Guard. Cadets who graduate from the program enter the service as second lieutenants.

The Three Rivers Battalion includes the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, metropolitan area and the University of Pittsburgh, where Captain Jamie Bell serves as the Enrollment and Scholarship Officer /Assistant Professor of Military Science for Army ROTC. She says, “There are some students who have the wrong impression of Army ROTC. We are not all about yelling or getting ready for war. Our cadets are still civilians and this is an academic setting. In fact we encourage students and their parents to both come visit us and see our program for themselves.” While there is still a degree of military style training on campus, the overall emphasis is on cadets’ education and career preparedness.

Who enrolls in Army ROTC?

Students who want to serve their country, and at the same time want to enjoy the educational and career benefits of the Army, find ROTC to be ideal. Perhaps you’ve heard of these famous Army ROTC graduates: Lou Holtz (head coach at Notre Dame), General Colin Powell (former U.S Secretary of State), Samuel Alito (Supreme Court Justice), James Earl Jones (actor), Frank Wells (former president of Walt Disney), Nancy Currie (astronaut), and Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart).

Why enroll in Army ROTC?

1. Military career
Guaranteed, immediate employment with the Army once you graduate. The opportunity to serve your country. Training on the world’s most advanced equipment and tools. Employer funded continuing education opportunities. Structured opportunities for promotions and pay raises. A military career offers graduates many perks most civilian employers can’t match.

2. Scholarships
Army ROTC scholarships are not given based on the financial needs of cadets, rather they are awarded based on merit, as are most perks in the military. Army ROTC offers several scholarship options. There are a two, three, and four year options. These scholarships will generally cover the entire cost of your tuition, provide an allowance for books and school fees, and provide a living stipend based on what level you are at in the Army ROTC curriculum.

Cadets compete for national and campus based scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to those with the best Grade Point Averages, Army Physical Fitness Test scores, and the Army’s Leadership Development Assessment Course results. ROTC cadets will be the first to tell you don’t let these criteria stop you from applying; that ROTC wants you to succeed and is designed to help you reach your academic goals.

3. Economy
Want an excellent insurance policy against economic downturns? Consider military service. What other vocation is always hiring through good and bad economic times?

In the civilian world, having a job waiting for you upon graduation has become a rarity. Faced with unemployment, and debt to pay back, many students turn to mom and dad for help. A 2009 study stated, “Among 2009 U.S. college graduates, 80 percent moved back home with their parents after graduation, up from 77 percent in 2008, 73 percent in 2007, and 67 percent in 2006.”

4. Civilian careers
Remember that less than 1% of our population serves in all of the Armed Forces combined. Being a current or former member of the military immediately makes you stand out. Military service is a highly respected, and often sought after, attribute of job seekers. Many ROTC cadets will graduate and serve in the National Guard or Army Reserves as officers while maintaining a civilian career.

Do employers really favor soldiers? Captain Bell thinks so. In fact she points to the Army’s ROTC PaYS Program (Partnership for Youth Success). This program partners with 400 larger companies who give hiring preference to Army ROTC cadets who will graduate and serve in the Guard or Reserves.

In Caroline Levchuck's Yahoo HotJobs article "Returning Vets: Employers Want You" she quotes Bob Putnam, senior manager of retail HR development for RadioShack. "At RadioShack, the core values that we hold near and dear are integrity, pride, trust and teamwork. That's really what people in the military are all about, and that's what makes candidates with a military background perfect for RadioShack."

5. Additional benefits
Cadets who sign a contract with the Army are also entitled to additional benefits. They can achieve the following stipend amounts:
-1st year, $300 per month
-2nd year, $350 per month
-3rd year, $450 per month
-4th year, $500 per month

Cadets who are not on scholarships, but have contracted with the Army will also be paid the stipend in their third and fourth year.

Your commitment to ROTC.

Accepting a scholarship puts you under contract with the Army. You are agreeing to serve in some capacity for a specified period of time. Meeting with the college’s Military Science department is important so that you fully understand the benefits you receive and the commitment expected from you.

Unless you’ve accepted a scholarship there is no commitment to participate in ROTC during your first two years of college. Junior years are called contract years in ROTC because cadets must then make a decision to continue ROTC or not. Cadets who continue will choose an appropriate military career path and contract with the Army.

College life as an ROTC cadet.

Lieutenant Michelle Raia, also of Three Rivers Battalion, feels Army ROTC enhanced her college experience. “For me it was like belonging to a family. Of course discipline is expected from the cadets, we have to be up early for morning PT (physical training), for example, but I still enjoyed other college activities. I also noticed that people respect you more because they know ROTC cadets work hard and are very motivated.”

To learn more about Army ROTC options, contact:
Captain Jamie Bell
Admissions and Enrollment Officer &
Assistant Professor of Military Science
Army ROTC, Three Rivers Battalion
University of Pittsburgh
412-370-0311 (m)
412-624-6254 (o)
412-624-7793 (f)

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