With a new president recently taking office, many wonder what his top priorities will be while on the job. And with the country currently in a financial crisis, many believe Obama’s main focus will be repairing the economy. But where does this leave the military, and more specifically, where does this leave military programs designed for students, such as the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)?
The ROTC first began in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act. There are currently more than 20,000 Cadets in the ROTC. There are more than 270 host programs and more than 1,000 partnership and affiliate schools around the nation.
At St. John’s, the ROTC has been around since 1968. Every year, there are around 12 members who become Lieutenants for the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard in all of the branches of the Army. Students from other universities in New York City can also join the ROTC at St. John’s.
According to Brian Clark, 1st Lieutenant and recruiting officer for the ROTC at St. John’s, Obama sees the benefits of the program and is “very much in favor of ROTC programs.”
Clark explained that being part of the ROTC offers students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and is “a great way to get an education.”
He also mentioned a public service forum where Obama spoke at Columbia University, along with Sen. McCain, in Sept. while both were still vying for the presidency.
At this event, Obama shared his disappointment in Columbia for not having an ROTC program.
“I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy,” he said. “But the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake.”
Some students in the ROTC here at St. John’s have faith in Obama’s commitment to ROTC programs and the military in general.
Rodney Leach, a sophomore, said that he believes Obama does care about education, which may cause him to increase funding for ROTC programs.
But Leach said he does believe that there are more pressing issues right now.
“He definitely should and will be focusing on the economy,” he said. “The military is going to be second.”
Another member of the ROTC, Jay Fong, a sophomore who goes to Brooklyn College, said that he thinks Obama is “putting the military as one of his top priorities.”
Clark added that Obama would be “misguided if the military wasn’t a priority.”
He said that during the election, ROTC members based their votes on a number of issues, not just the military.
“Opinions were split on both sides,” he said, but only “some of it has to do with the military.”
However, Clark stated that the first line of the Oath of Enlistment calls for members of the military to “protect the Constitution of the United States.”
The oath also states, “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States.”
Like Clark said, as a member of the military you must “follow any orders given to you,” regardless of your political affiliations.