Get to Know an Organization: ROTC prepares students for military service and life

Every day millions of men and women in the United States Armed Forces fight for the privilege of freedom that Americans enjoy. Each member has their own experience, their own story, and their own path; for some, that path starts here at the University of Alabama.

Many students who have an interest in a career in the US military choose to begin their journey to join the Armed Forces through the UA ROTC program, or the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. During training, students choose to pursue their interests through several areas of expertise, including health care, aviation, finance, engineering, translation, and chemistry—just to name a few. This allows members to prepare to become officers in the military while earning their degree, and boasts lofty social, financial, and academic benefits to boot.

“I always wanted to join the army...ever since I was a kid; this was the best route, it just made the most sense,” said Matthew Reed, a freshman ROTC member. “It keeps you in good shape...and I think it teaches good time management for someone coming right into college.”

His friends and fellow ROTC members Brett McCracken and Brandon LaSalle nodded in agreement. The group lists multi-faceted benefits of the program, including discipline, strong relationships, good health, and scholarships they’ve gained even in the beginnings of their ROTC career.

“You make friends you’ll have your whole time in college and after...you get PT [physical training] out of it, and it holds you accountable,” said McCracken. “You can’t just fail classes, you have to get study hours.”

The ROTC members must adhere to a strict schedule of workouts, physical fitness tests, required GPA’s with the possibility of mandatory studying hours, and more.

“I think it’s the best career path for someone who wants to be in the military for a long time,” Reed said.

ROTC provides a way for military-minded students to attend University for little to no cost; some scholarships even include money for room and board and books.

The constant companionship and accountability fosters great relationships, but also inspires the students to strive for excellence in the classroom.

“It made me prioritize getting a good GPA, and the guys I’m in ROTC with now are my roommates for next semester,” McCracken said. “There’s a kind of personal responsibility...learning how to do things for yourself.”

McCracken learned of the collegial ROTC program through the JROTC group at his high school, which he participated in all four years; considering his progress coupled with a desire to serve his country he’s had since early childhood, college-level ROTC seemed like a natural next step. When asked about the preparation of potential members, it is decided it all comes down to getting physical.

“Run a lot, work out a lot...start waking up early,” McCracken said.

Workouts start bright and early several mornings a week at 5.30 am, and it seems to be an opinion shared by the group: it takes a sort of perseverance to keep up with the intense schedule. The guilty pleasures of late nights and junk food have no place here. Three boxes of pasta sit on a table in the friend's kitchen next to a lone jar of spaghetti sauce and a large jug of Hawaiian punch—a way for the men to “carb up” and stay hydrated for more energy in preparation for their upcoming PT test.

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