OXFORD, Miss. – The Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Mississippi has a proven track record of developing leaders, including 20 graduates who have attained the honor of becoming general officers and other positions of distinction. So when the department won one of eight MacArthur Awards earlier this month, the honor was not a total surprise.
The prestigious awards, presented by the U.S. Army Cadet Command and the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Foundation, recognize the ideals of “duty, honor and country” as advocated by MacArthur. The award is based on a combination of the achievement of the school’s commissioning mission and its cadets’ performance and standing on the command’s national Order of Merit List and its cadet retention rate.
“The degree of excellence the Rebel Battalion has achieved in total training performance, recruiting and achievement of mission will make visible and enduring contribution to our command’s mission – to commission the very best young men and women America has to offer,” said Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cadet Command in a congratulatory letter to Lt. Col. John Abruscato, the unit’s commander.
This is the third consecutive year that the battalion has grabbed national honors. Eleven cadets captured high honors at the 2010 Ranger Challenge Team Competition, placing second out of the field of 45 teams from colleges and universities in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. Last spring, the Rebel Battalion was selected as second-best in the nation in the annual Order of the Founders and Patriots of America “Outstanding Army ROTC Unit Award.” Seattle University placed first, with Cameron University coming in third.
Brigadier Gen. Augustus L. Collins, adjutant general of Mississippi and the commanding general of both the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard, praised the Ole Miss Army ROTC program for starting others like himself on career paths to success and longevity.
“The University of Mississippi Army ROTC program is invaluable,” Collins said. “Not only does it prepare young men and women in uniform for service to our country, but is also teaches them leadership, respect for others and themselves, discipline, the value of selfless service and makes each person a more well-rounded individual.”
Paying tribute to his unit for a job well done, Abruscato said, “The program has accomplished many achievements in the last several years. The reason winning the McArthur Award for the best Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in the Southeast and being selected as one of the best eight programs out of 273 nationally is that this award, unlike others, was determined by the headquarters of the all of these programs.
“Key criteria were closely reviewed by the Cadet Command Headquarters in making their selections for this prestigious award. It is also a validation that this program and this university are doing an outstanding job of recruiting, educating, training, retaining and commissioning outstanding cadets.”
As senior officer at UM, Chancellor Dan Jones congratulated the unit for a job well done.
“The Army ROTC program invests a great amount of time in training the finest future military leaders to serve and protect our country,” Jones said. “The MacArthur Award is a most fitting and well deserved honor for the very fine work these young people do all of the time.”
Cadre members and cadets were most appreciative of the recognition from Cadet Command.
“The MacArthur Award is a validation of the way this program commissions future officers to include recruiting, training, retaining and, ultimately, commissioning some of the best cadets in the country,” said Master Sgt. Michael Howland, senior military instructor at UM. “Our focus is always to commission the best young officer in the Army to ensure a positive future for the military and, at the same time, create a factual perception that an Ole Miss officer means a quality person with unlimited potential.”
Nationwide, 273 senior Army ROTC Corps are divided into eight brigades. Representing the Sixth Brigade, UM joins programs at The Citadel in (Charleston, S.C.), Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.), Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), the University of Maryland (College Park, Md.), the University of Utah (Salt Lake City), the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.) and Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, Calif.) as the top eight Army ROTC programs in the country.
Recruitment and retention have seldom been a challenge. The number of students enrolling in the Ole Miss Army ROTC program has doubled over the last three years. In 2010, the program commissioned 27 officers, the most since the 1970s, when ROTC was required.
This year, the program will commission 26 new lieutenants into the Army. Fifteen will go active duty. Additionally, seven of those cadets are Distinguished Military Graduates, indicating that they are in the top 10 percent of cadets nationally as a result of their academic and military performances while in ROTC.
“Most people think ROTC is similar to boot camp, but nothing could be further from the truth. The most important aspect of ROTC is academic excellence,” said Maj. Walt Vinzant, ROTC recruiting officer. “We really try to ensure that cadets are successful in their undergraduate studies.”
“A cadet’s academic performance accounts for 40 percent of their national ranking. Within that framework, the primary subject we teach is leadership; not just personal excellence, but the ability to elevate the performance of those around you. It’s a team effort.”
More than 1,600 officers have commissioned through the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines ROTC programs on campus. They have fought honorably through six wars, including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The importance of a decision-making process guided by moral and ethical considerations is paramount to what we see as the basis for a great officer,” Howland said. “Understanding that, as future officers, they place the needs of the country and their soldiers ahead of their own needs and never compromise their integrity while doing it is what we strive for and Gen. MacArthur exemplified.”
To accomplish this, UM cadets are held to a much higher standard of conduct than other incoming freshmen from Day 1 to prepare them for their chosen calling, Howland said. “By attempting to live up to those ideals daily, the cadets have risen to a standard that makes the awarding of the MacArthur Award possible,” he said.
Typical of the caliber of students who comprise the Ole Miss unit is 2nd Lt. Will Allen, who is completing infantry officer training at Ft. Benning, Ga., before joining the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Ky. Allen, who graduated last year with a degree in economics with minors in military science and leadership, intelligence and security studies and Russian, was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
Allen said the awards reflect the hard work of the cadre and cadets over the last several years.
“Over the past several years, the training has become more difficult and mission focused,” Allen said. “Instead of teaching cadets what specific action to take in certain situations, they are taught how to analyze the situation and produce a course of action that accomplishes the given task in a moral, ethical and lawful manner.
“Personally, the award serves as a testament to the training and education my classmates and I received. The recognition is important because it validates the long hours and hard work we put in to surpass the standard. Ole Miss cadets and officers routinely perform better than those from other schools, and this award recognizes the successful training methods the Ole Miss cadre have incorporated.”
Senior Logan Allie of Orlando, Fla., also praised the program and its leadership.
“The cadre here at Ole Miss are among the best, and you can tell by asking questions at any time,” said Allie, a law enforcement and homeland security major with a minor in military science and leadership. “They are a wealth of information for your disposal. They take pride in only keeping and commissioning the best cadets possible.”
“It means a ton to know I have been part of this amazing program and can help spread my knowledge to the underclassmen, so that this can continue for many years,” he added.
ROTC at UM was established on March 11, 1936, and traces its history back to the University Grays, which was formed in 1861.
For more information about UM’s ROTC program, visit Army, https://www.olemiss.edu/orgs/arotc/ , Navy/Marines, https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/naval_science/ and Air Force, https://www.olemiss.edu/orgs/afrotc/Det430-Home.html