OXFORD, Miss. – Continuing its recent string of award-winning finishes, the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Mississippi has won first place during the Joint Field Training Exercise.
Competing the weekend of Feb. 24-26 at Camp McCain near Grenada, Ole Miss ROTC outranked 16 schools from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, including arch rivals Mississippi State University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University. Being one of the largest ROTC programs to attend – with 28 junior cadets – the honor is especially noteworthy because it was statistically harder for it to win.
“We were really focused on this and the hard work paid off,” said Master Sgt. Michael Howland, UM senior military instructor. “It’s always fun to hear the Hotty Toddy at an awards ceremony!”
The Joint Field Training Exercise is the precursor to the Leadership Development Assessment Course, held annually at Fort Lewis, Wash. The grading scale was a cumulative average of each cadet’s Army Physical Fitness Test score, land navigation score (written, day and night) and leadership evaluations of Squad Tactical Exercises in a garrison and combat scenario. The evaluations were done by cadre from all the school who attended.
Conducted between a cadet’s junior and senior year, LDAC serves as the national culmination exercise for all the training the cadet receives in ROTC, Howland said.
“How a cadet does at LDAC, coupled with their cumulative GPA and APFT scores, affects where they will rank on the National Order of Merit List prior to commissioning as an officer,” Howland said. “The OML encompasses over 6,000 cadets nationwide.”
The department won one of eight MacArthur Awards earlier last month. 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.
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.
“The national rankings and recognition we’ve received during the last few years, along with our first-place finish last weekend at the JFTX, are positive indicators regarding the strength of the program,” said Maj. Walt Vinzant, ROTC recruiting officer. “We’re very pleased with the performance of our MSIII cadets (juniors), but equally proud of the MSIV cadets (seniors) that had a large role in the MSIII’s training.”
MSIII primary instructors Brady Williamson and SFC Joseph Betterton are the people largely responsible for the MSIII’s success, Vinzant said. “Both men are committed to excellence and did a super job ensuring our cadets were academically and physically prepared for the event.”
This year, the program will commission 26 new lieutenants into the Army. Fifteen will go active duty. 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.
ROTC at UM was established March 11, 1936, and traces its history back to the University Grays, which was formed in 1861.