Renewed ROTC program at CWRU prepares future leaders of armed services

ROTC cadet walking across CWRU campus
An ROTC cadet walks across campus this fall.

As the country celebrates Veterans Day, Case Western Reserve marks its second year of hosting a renewed Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program on campus. Today, the university will take part in a national expression of gratitude and remembrance with a 1:30 p.m. ceremony outside Adelbert Hall. The event will recognize active-duty troops and military veterans and will include a moment of silence in honor of members of the military who died serving the United States.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Donald Feke sees the university’s enhanced ROTC program as another sign of respect for the armed forces and their efforts on behalf of the country. This year, nine first-year students and seven sophomores are enrolled in ROTC courses at Case Western Reserve, a dramatic increase over the two to three students who enrolled in an affiliated off-campus program before ROTC returned fully to campus last year.

“We were approached by the Army to bring the program back to our campus because the Army wanted more ROTC cadets in the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] disciplines,” Feke explained. “And they thought, ‘What better place in Ohio than Case Western Reserve to do that?’”

Like many universities across the country, Case Western Reserve ended the ROTC program on its campus following the 1970 Kent State University Vietnam War protests, in which Ohio National Guardsmen killed four unarmed Kent State students.

In 2006, the Faculty Senate rescinded the 1970 ban on ROTC, and Case Western Reserve became an affiliate of ROTC. That allowed students to use their ROTC scholarships at Case Western Reserve, but required them travel to John Carroll University for the ROTC curriculum of military and leadership courses and physical training. For cadets, that meant waking up around 5 a.m. to travel for their early-morning classes and return to campus for a full day of their CWRU schedule.

Last year, along with universities such as Yale and Harvard, Case Western Reserve reinstated the program, offering classes and training to first- and second-year students on campus; juniors and seniors still travel to John Carroll for the more intensive training.

“By having the courses now taught on our campus,” Feke said, “it makes it much more convenient to come to CWRU intending to pursue ROTC.”

Students take courses including military history, military strategy, leadership development, and physical and tactical training. Many receive scholarship support through ROTC. At the end of the program, those who received support must complete a period of service with the military.

“ROTC students are very high caliber,” Feke said. “They do well in courses and they’re exemplary students of the institution—that’s the kind of student we’re looking for.”

Battalion Executive Officer Michael Janes, a chemical engineering major, notes that the program also allows students to learn skills from one another.

“They come in fresh out of high school,” explained Janes, who represents the fourth generation of his family to join the Army, “and it’s the job of the older cadets to take those individuals and prepare them to be leaders on the battlefield.”