Members of the University of Mississippi Army ROTC unit train in unique settings each day, a factor that likely went into the unit winning the second-best Outstanding Army ROTC Unit Award.
This year the Rebel Battalion ranks second in the nation for recruiting, training and mission focus. Several cadets in the program believe this distinction is an accurate reflection of the program as a whole.
Matthew Astorino, sophomore linguistics major, said that being in the ROTC has introduced him to experiences he would not have imagined if he were not in the program. Astorino spent two months in Jordan last summer in a cultural understanding and language program.
“The ROTC got me involved in Arabic, and I have had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East,” Astorino said. “That has been so beneficial to me.”
Many ROTC members travel abroad during their years at UM, and some discover locations where they would like to continue their military careers after graduation.
Senior physics major Dustin Tutin has spent time in Germany and recently learned that he is slated to be a military police officer there for three years starting in May. He said he values the ROTC for the opportunities it has consistently provided him.
“The traveling is incredible,” Tutin said. “I get to go to so many places around the world.”
Jeremy Locke, a senior criminal justice major, said the program places an emphasis on exploring different cultures to help prepare individuals for all situations. Locke has traveled to China and Taiwan through the ROTC.
“The program does a good job of sending future officers to other countries to learn about their cultures,” Locke said. “It teaches you awareness and that you need to be careful wherever you go.
“Everyone reacts differently to the way you talk and to your mannerisms. You have to learn to adjust.”
All ROTC members go through a leadership training course at Fort Lewis, Wash. during the summer after their junior year, where students participate in the Leader Development Assessment Course. Here, rising senior cadets are evaluated on their physical training, land navigation and leadership skills.
Cadets’ rankings at the LDAC are essential because they are a factor in determining in which branches they will be placed. How they perform in the challenges could determine their future jobs within the army.
The unit’s overall performance at Fort Lewis is also a factor that helped win them this year’s high distinction. Tutin said the ROTC program at Ole Miss focuses primarily on training for the LDAC for the three years before the trip.
“When we went this past summer, we were extremely well prepared, especially in comparison to cadets from other schools,” Tutin said. “The cadre members really prepared us. They are very good at their job.”
Cadre members are the ROTC staff, including officers, captains and lieutenants who work with the cadets every day.
Assistant professor of military science Capt. William Brady said his time with the Ole Miss ROTC has been the best experience of his career.
“This is my first semester as an instructor,” Brady said. “I’ve loved my entire military experience, but this is by far the most rewarding.
“I am very proud to be part of this program, primarily because of the young men and women involved. They are extraordinary student leaders and hold themselves to high standards.”
Senior criminal justice major Alexis Chandler said the cadre at Ole Miss is exceptionally well trained.
“I have visited other ROTC programs and seen other cadres,” Chandler said. “None are as focused on the goals as ours are. They really try to help you in any way they can, and they know their material well.”
Chandler is one of about 20 females in the ROTC unit at Ole Miss. The entire battalion has around 120 cadets. Chandler said that taking on leadership roles has been both challenging and rewarding.
“I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is leadership — especially being a shy person,” Chandler said.
“At first it was hard for me to have to talk in front of people and give commands.”
Senior cadets are placed in leadership positions to help younger ROTC members. Chandler said they are in charge of weekly labs where they give feedback to the younger cadets on their performance and identify ways for them to improve.
“We also plan events and teach cadets how to prepare for the LDAC,”she said. “The LDAC really is our main focus.”
All members participate in physical training for one hour every morning, Monday through Thursday. As one of the leaders at the PT sessions, Locke creates and facilitates workout plans for the freshmen.
“Everything we do has some sort of leadership spin on it,” Locke said.
Locke said he believes that the leadership skills he gained through the ROTC program at Ole Miss have provided him with a unique college experience. He plans to work in the field artillery unit at Fort Sill, Okla. after graduating and hopes to continue his career in radio and computer communications.
“Being able to mature in the ROTC for four years with that strong emphasis on leadership really has put me and other ROTC members at a high advantage,” Locke said.
from the DM by Molly Dyal