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Respect for the ROTC

ROTC Background
The University of Southern Mississippis Golden Eagle Battalion, a program that began in 1950, is ranked first out of thirty-nine schools, including, Louisiana State University, Ole Miss, Mississippi State University, and Tulane. It is also ranked number eight in the nation. This speaks a lot for a small university. The members, also known as Cadets, use skills they learned at training camps to compete in training activities against other universities. The Cadets are known for their training skills, and also for their leadership skills. USM has produced 16 generals since 1951. Eighty-seven students are currently enrolled in the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) here at Southern Miss, seventeen of them are scheduled to be commissioned as lieutenants in May of next year.

Maybe we will pull this one out, mumbles the guy sitting behind me after our running back ran the ball into our opponents end zone. The Southern Miss football team wasnt exactly the comeback team as everyone expected them to be, since the hiring of the new coach. At this point I was not interested in the guys dressed in football jerseys. Instead, I caught myself staring at seven physically fit men who wore tan boots, camoflauge pants, short bibbed camoflauge hats, and fitted shirts with the short sleeves rolled up, which really showed off their triceps. Simultaneously, they jogged into the end zone, stopped, and then began to do pushups. They started in the formation they had before, and jogged out of the end zone. I obviously found their unity a bit interesting. At least they didnt have to do too many pushups, Southern Miss doesnt score that often.
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Ever since Junior High, Stephen knew he wanted to be a part of something that was far greater than himself. He was known for his easy going attitude, hard work, and all around good personality. He found great interest in America, freedom, and the people who fought for it. It was his dream and goal to join the Army. Throughout his life, Stephen became known for his leadership by staying true to his word. He fulfilled his obligations. He was simply a role model, always striving to respect others, whether they may be young or old. He shared the values of this community before he was asked to. On September 3rd, Stephen was blind-folded and guided to the end of a diving board. This was a whole new world for him and his adrenaline was going ninety to nothing. He was holding a mock rifle and was fully dressed in his uniform, boots, chest vest, and all. The water was thirteen feet below the diving board that was holding the six foot, one hundred and fifty pound freshman. The command was to take a plunge off of the diving board, keep the mock rifle above water, and swim across the Olympic size pool until he reached the other side. Fortunately for Stephen, he could take the blind fold off when he took his first breath coming up from the drop. Stephen considered this fun. After succeeding in this, Stephen then had to swim for fifteen minutes straight, without stopping. I was thinking that was a lot, until Stephen told me that they also had to tread water for five minutes. Stephen informed me, It wasnt easy but I will continue to get better and stronger every day. I cannot find Stephen at the moment but I know he is out there. He said that they meet up Monday through Thursdays for physical training, also known as PT. It is early, too early for me at least. The sun has yet to make an appearance. In spite of all of this I am in awe. They are in a perfect unison. It is something about the way their limp bodies straightened, chins popped up, and hands clamped to their sides when a man, who
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looked to be about in his thirties, sternly said Attention! Wet grass from the morning dew stuck to the back of their tan, bulky boots. The uniforms consists of what looks to be a jacket, thick pants, and short bibbed hats. I feel bad for them, because I know they must be burning up and its not even daylight. The sea of camoflauge begins to spread out but somehow it stays in perfect order. The sergeant calls out lehhh or at least that is all I heard. My eyes are burning at this point and I really cant tell if I am awake or asleep. I wondered how someone could actually get pleasure from such activity this early in the morning. They stretched, ran, and did multiple pushups and sit ups. They ended in the same formation that they started in. It makes sense to me now, the whole battle buddy system thing. Stephen explained to me that they each had a battle buddy, and his is actually a girl. The purpose of a battle buddy is to help them stay on tasks and to remain motivated. I now know how important motivation is. Motivation is a necessity when working out four days a week in a hot uniform. Freshmen, like Stephen, start in Military Science I and are called MSIs. They meet twice a week. In class, he learned about customs, such as saluting. He also learned about courtesies. A few examples of courtesies are: the Post Flag being flown in fair weather, the Garrison Flag being flown only on holidays and special occasions, and the Storm Flag is used to drape over caskets, and also indicates bad weather. MSI also introduces the history of the ROTC, rifle marksmanship, hand grenade use, land navigation, the fundamentals of leadership, and field training. MSII is the advanced version of MS1 and also includes troop leading procedures, and the basics of operations. When Stephen is a junior, he will have to sign a contract with the army to continue to the advanced course, which starts with MSIII. MSIII focuses on leadership. In MSIII, Stephen will be assigned leadership positions and will be evaluated by how well he does.
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He will also become a part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) and undertake the roles in organizing companies, platoons, and squads. These roles include, first sergeant, platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and squad leader. He will be evaluated strictly on how well he portrays the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selflessservice, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Finally, Stephen will become a MSIV his senior year. He will then be preparing to become a successful lieutenant in the Army, either as an active or reserve. His main goal as a MSIV will be to teach and train the MSIIIs and prepare other cadets to become great leaders for the Army. Unfortunately, Stephen may not have this opportunity at Southern Miss.

The Shutdown
There is a great possibility that Stephen will have to transfer to another university if he wants to reach his goal to be an active in the Army. Southern Miss, along with thirteen other universities, is being targeted for closing because of shortage of commissioned officers produced each year. Mississippi is not taking this lightly. The reasoning behind these shutdowns, according to Army officials, is to invest ROTC programs in larger cities so more generals can be produced. Ironically, ROTC programs have opened up in the two Ivy League schools, Columbia and Harvard, which in the past have both banned the ROTC from their campuses strictly because homosexuals are not allowed in the Military. Governor Phil Bryant, a Southern Miss grad, is wondering why the Army will take funds from such a great and honored program and give to universities that have never had a ROTC program, or have once banned the program altogether. Army General Buford Blount shared his thoughts, at a recent conference that was held on the campus of Southern Miss, on the Armys destructive decision. He told the news conference that he will do anything within his power to overturn the decision,
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Weve got a great history here. Weve got great support for our ROTC program, and I cant believe we cant get this thing turned around.

Hope for the Future

Samuel Retherford, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, met with Dr. Rodney Bennett, USMs president, in Washington D.C. to discuss the shutdown. Dr. Bennett brought up the longstanding success of the program, his disappointment in the way the Army handled the situation, and his goal of maintaining the success in the program. Dr. Bennett said, We believe in what were doing at Southern Miss, and our goal everyday is to help our students be successful. When anybody threatens that, it gets me going, and I think this fell into that category.

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Works Cited
KempEd. "USM ROTC not aone in falling short." Hattiesburg, MS: Clarion Ledger , Oct. 13,2012. Print. HalfordMary Margaret. "USM President meets with Army officials in D.C. on ROTC closure ." Biloxi , MS: Sun Herald, Nov. 14, 2013. Print. The Associated Press. "Southern Miss losing ROTC program." Meridian , MS: News Center WTOK , Oct. 12, 2013. Print.

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