Rotc making of a Leader

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ROTC Making of a Leader

Amber Barnett

Eng 1301

Professor Dziadek

April 6, 2015


Cadets are trainees in the process of becoming an officer in the military. Many of you have seen them walking around on campus;. Tthe people with the “funny green” outfits and from an outsider’s perspective they look like any regular soldier, but to people associated with the discourse community of the Armed Forces they are more properly know as Cadets. Thinking back to before I enlisted it wasn’t outlandish to think of soldiers as either Privates or Sergeants. It wasn’t until I actually joined the army and found out that there are attributes such as rank, hierarchy, and many other classifications of authority. For instance, I never knew there were classifications of military personnel known as Commissioned Officers or I never unerdstood their role. Even with me being enlisted I’m still a bit uneasy as to what Commissioned Officers actually do, which is why I took up ROTC as discourse community to get may make a stronger niche?an inside view of what it act takes to become one. ROTC or Reserve Officers' Training Corps is a college-based program for training commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces. In my research one of the key questions I want to be answered is how does ROTC take your normal average everyday college student and transform them into a person of leadership and what are the issues or challenges these Cadets face along the way.


The United States history of Commissioned Officers starts with one great leader named George Washington who is considered one of the first commanding officers in US military. He won the hearts of our nation by providing excellent leadership for his soldier. Richard Neustadt, Presidential Scholar at Harvard University, observed the following about George Washington: “It wasn’t his generalship that made him stand out…It was the way he attended to and stuck by his men. His soldiers 19 knew that he respected and cared for them, and that he would share their severe hardships.”(Stallard18-19). Of the many years to come, more exceptional men began to grace the position of military officer. George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and Norman Schwarzkopf were all key leaders in the foundation of what it means to be an officer in the military. Patton was known for his command and management in that he believed in being true to yourself, discipline, physical fitness, and good decision making skills. According to the author Ford in the biography George S. Patton “He played to an appreciative audience as a tenacious, innovative, and daring battlefield commander” (1). Eisenhower was a well educated man who used logic as a principle in his leadership. He was very good at getting what he wanted done and was excellent at developing military tactics of war. More recently, Gen. Schwarzkopf expressed great leadership skills during Operation Desert Storm “During the Gulf War, he commanded more than 540,000 U.S. troops and 200,000 allied forces in a six-week war that routed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait.  The sweeping armored movement he employed during the ground campaign is seen as one of the great accomplishments in military history” (Wilson).

Currently they are three routes to becoming a commissioned officer. Those include: Service Academy (USMA, USNA, USAFA, USCGA, USMMA) which are federal academies for the undergraduate education and training of commissioned officers, Reserve Officer Training Corps (Army ROTC, NROTC, AFROTC), is a college-based program for training commissioned officers, and Officer Candidate School (Army OCS, Navy OCS, Marine OCS, Coast Guard OCS) or Officer Training School (Air Force OTS), trains, assesses, and evaluates potential commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. For this ethnography we will be focusing on the college based program known as ROTC for which many college students join in means of obtaining a commission into the Armed Forces. Military training had been taking place on many college campuses as early as 1816 but the concept of ROTC was implemented by an Service Academy instructor who taught of the concept of a “citizen soldier,” a person trained to act in a military capacity when the nation required, but function as a civilian in peacetime (Holden 3). President Wilson signed the National Defense Act of 1916, which allowed it to be an official federally controlled entity known as the Reserve Officers Training Corps (Santos 41). Army ROTC has commissioned more than half a million officers since its beginning, making it the largest officer-producing organization in American military.

Today over 273 Army ROTC programs exist on college and university campuses throughout all 50 states. To become an officer you must first receive a university degree which you may obtain while simultaneously being in ROTC training as leadership and management generalists. Once a Cadet commissions through ROTC they receive the rank of Second Lieutenant and are then selected to serve Active Army, the Army National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserve ( Santos 43). The main mission of the ROTC is to educate, develop, inspire, and commission the best and brightest public leaders with character and discipline, who are committed to the Army Values, defense of the country and service to our nation.


My methods of data collection included six online and in person interviews, three observational studies, and the events where I actually participated with the Cadets. During the observational studies I would view them but not approach so I could a view of them in their natural environment without interruption from strangers. The events I did participate with them included physical training and attending a Military Science class. I also used mediums such as the internet to look up background data of my discourse community.

Functions as a Discourse Community

Inspired by John Swales, I will now present the six concepts of a discourse community to thoroughly describe what being a Cadet in ROTC is like. These six concepts include: common public goals, intercommunication among its members, provide information and feedback, one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of it aim, lexis, and degree of relevant context and discoursal expertise (Swales 220 par 10-17).


For the past two to three months I have been doing numerous observations and interviews to find out what each member considers common goals. My very first observation occurred on February 17, 2015 at approximately 4:50. I stealthy dressed up in my military issued PTs or Physical Training uniform with the intent of sneaking in un-talked of and unseened but to my dismay as I causally strolled up to a person who looked of authority he quickly “squared” me away, military term for “to put in order.” What I didn’t know at that time was that my pants were on backwards since I had put my clothes on in complete darkness and as I looked down I noticed the reflective Army logo was in the rear instead of the front and that told me right there how sharp eyed these Cadets were. Not only did the first guy I saw say something to me but I could hear the others whispering “did we get someone new?” I was impressed at how quickly they noticed something out of place and how each member acted out on it. Teamwork, unity and vigilance are all important goals shared between members of the ROTC. I think being enlisted in the Army really gave me an advantage because ROTC shares many of the common goals of regular Army. From my observations Cadets all seem to place importance on physical training, education, training as leadership, and professional development as with normal Army. The only real distinction I could see is how ROTC stresses education more so than regular Army. I can say I’ve figure this out mainly from my past experience with talking to many soldiers of different ranks and from what I could gather is that people who are college educated usually take the Commissioned Officer route while those who have never been to college or high school dropouts usually go the route of a Non-Commissioned Officer which are more famously known as Sergeants.

The most common means of intercommunication among members of ROTC are emails quick response between members and the Islander Battalion website which displays information in upcoming events of the community. It’s also acceptable to use cell phones during off hours when not in class. Morning PT sessions are also held to train and get physically fit while relaying information to other Cadets and Cadre members. Lab sessions are used to gain ideas about leadership and what it takes to be a leader. Meetings are held for the purpose of learning about important dates and get information about future events and changes of physical training time and dates. Like for instance, on the week of March 30th- 4 April the Cadets were having an event call “Sprit Week” where they would do rifle drills in place of their morning Physical Training time. Cadets use many genres to help establish order in their community. Two of the most important books any Cadet could ever come across would be the Cadet, Standing Operating Procedures : SOP & Handbook and TRADOC Pamphlet 6004. The handbook gives the stand operating procedures at which Cadets are supposed to live by. TRADOC Pamphlet 6004 which stand for Arm Training Document, stands as an important source of the correct wear of the uniform, military customs and courtesies, and all other basic army teachings. Cadets share the same lingo consistent with the rest of military. Once a Cadet gets through their fourth year of college and has passed their physical training test, in good standing grade wise and successfully completes (LDAC) Leadership Development and Assessment Course they are than granted a commission into the US Army.


The following interviews were conducting between the months of February and March. Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. The first interviewed were Cades: Faul, Brown, and Gonzales, on March 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm at Bell Library. Cadet Faul was a first year student that claimed to join because of money. In this interview I found a few of my X-factors. In basic training within 48 hours of reaching your unit you are signed off with a rifle, in ROTC I found out that instead being issued actual riffles they are issued what are known to them as “Rubber Ducks.” Rubber Ducks are apparently realistic plastic model M-16s. Another term that was somewhat new was “Brass,” in basic brass was simply what was left after firing a few rounds but to Cadets and other military personnel its slang for Commissioned Officer. He used the example sentence, “Guys we better get this cleaned up before it hits the Brass.” Cadet Brown was a first year female, which joined because of her family strong history of military service. She also liked the fact that she had received a scholarship that paid her full tuition at TAMUCC and how once she graduates she will have a guaranteed job. In ROTC there are many scholarships, the one Cadet Brown signed started a contract with ROTC that states by having tuition fully paid for once she commissioned she have the mandatory obligations of joining Active Duty Army as a Second Lieutenant. Cadet Gonzales was a male in his second year of ROTC and had earned to title of Team Leader. His duties includes taking orders from his Squad Leader and delegate lower ranking Cadets. I asked him what a typical day for him like as a Cadet and he replied, “PT in the morning, breakfast with fellow cadets after PT, class, working out.” In ROTC on Tuesdays through Thursdays Cadets usually meet around the time of 5:50 A.M. and workout til 7:00 A.M then go eat breakfast in the dining hall and from there on they usually attend either a Lab or MSI class. Labs basically emulate a lot of things I learned basic training such as land navigations, basic marksmanship, and tactical movement drills. My next set of interviews were conducted online by use of emails and social media sites. These involved a different variety of soldiers from former drill sergeants to ROTC Leadership. On March 8, 2015 at 7:30 I contacted Staff Sergeant Payne who was a formal drill sergeant and gave me a good explanation of his role and how it pertained to working with commissioned officers. In his interview I asked what the main duty of a Commissioned Officer and where he fell in with their duties and told me “commissioned officers are overalliy responsible for the operations of their company and accountability for its equipment although all of these duties are delegated to jr officers or NCO's…. my experience is they're either great because they listen to their nco's who have years up on years of real world experience on them or they're god awful because they don't listen to their NCO's they micromanage and they are unable to accept criticism from subordinates and often use their position to crush any type of dissent even the generally beneficial kinds.” The next person was Captain Morgan who was contacted on March 8, 2015 at 8:00. He is a commander at my old unit and gave me great insight on examples of great leaders. I asked him who he thought were the greatest Commissioned Officers ever to live and her replied Washington, Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Eisenhower…these gentlemen had a lot of soldiers to look after and did an excellent job of tending to each one’s needs.” I also asked what the general responsibly of a Commissioned Officer was and he replied, “think about a retail environment we’ll use Best Buy for example, the Commander is the guy who owns the store. The General manager is the 1sg (senior NCO or Sergeant) he’s in charge of the daily operations although the commander may have the final say when it comes to everything he entrusts the 1sg to manage the company day to day bases.” While attending “Sprit Week” I exchanged emails with Cadet Wu who is currently a Squad Leader at the Islander Battalion on campus and gave an excellent interview of his role in leading young cadets, he interviewed on March 9, 2015 at 2:00pm. He gave me the three army Rights, “right place right time right uniform right attitude.” The final interview Master Sergeant Love who is an instructor of a Military Science class and he provided me with a lot of information of how ROTC is set up and even how I could come apart of it, he was interviewed on March 31, 2015 at 2:00pm. One of the biggest X Factors for me was my interaction with NCOs or Sergeants associated with ROTC training units. With ROTC being apart of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, more famously known as TRADOC which is known for its “unique” way of training enlisted personnel. Having going through basic training I knew how NCOs were…very well actually. In basic I was always the main private getting everyone in trouble because the Drill Sergeants just seemed to always have it out for me. Most NCOs in basic are very anal, quick to the tongue, always seemed angry, not afraid to give out corrective training (pushups, flutter kicks, ect), genuinely very effective at making the training environment very stressful. As I left basic training and went on to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) the NCOs became slightly nicer…I put more emphases on SLIGTLY, so when setting in this Master Sergeants class I assumed he was going to be just as sharp tongued as the one from basic and AIT but to my surprise he was very lenient. During my observation there was a female Cadet who forgot her Essay and my eye quickly shot to him as if I knew was just going to lose it and throw a chair or swiftly order her to do a hundred pushups or flutter kicks but instead he said “Okay, you can turn it in tomorrow for half credit” this shocked me so much as even in my normal unit Sergeants are very nit picky about deadlines and meeting certain expectations. I almost felt somewhat upset because their being treated so differently than how I was trained. As the class let out I began my one on one interview with him and he said that he has been in the Army for thirteen years and that with he’s new job as a instructor he had to change a lot of his behaviors he’d previously exhibited. “It was hard for me coming from an infantry background to a college campus…certain behaviors aren’t considered acceptable here and we have to present a more professional persona.” He did go on to tell me how much he respected me for serving and how he feel that people like me (National Guard or Reserves) see the “full picture” as opposed to someone who is just a regular college student with no military background at all.


From the date I started collected material nothing really surprised me too much since I’ve been to basic training before and was familiar with all the concepts presented around this discourse community, I did however find a few X Factors, like “Brass” being slang for Commissioned Officers; the instructors don’t yell at the Cadets as they would do in Basic Training, instead everything is handled in a professional manner. I enjoyed the experience of getting to random strangers and being a part of their live for a brief moment. At first I felt so overwhelmed and that I didn’t know where to start or how the all the interviews I conducted would fit in my project but I think I did an excellent job at getting my point across.


After analyzing all my collected data I can now proudly say I know what’s like walk in the shoes or should say boots of Cadet in the ROTC program. From a outsiders perspective they may only see someone who gets to walk around in a uniform all day but what they don’t know is how hard these Cadets work and how hard it is to find that good balance between being mentally and physically fit all while maintaining all other demands of a college student. Some of the most powerful lessoned learned were the power of team work and unity. One of the benefits of being in a community like this is that it exposes you to many different types of people who all want to accomplish the same goals as you and a lot of friendships are built because of that. Leadership is learned by great instructors encouraging and helping out young Cadets.

Works Cited

Allen, Matthew T., et al. "Predicting Leadership Performance And Potential In The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School (OCS)." Military Psychology 26.4 (2014): 310-326. PsycARTICLES. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

Cadet, Standing Operating Procedures : SOP & Handbook. n.p.: [Washington, D.C.? : Dept. of the Army, 1999], 1999. Government Printing Office Catalog.

Cho, Junsung. "Interview with a Squad Leader." Personal interview. 4 Mar. 2015.

Ford, Kirk, Jr. "George S. Patton." Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (2014): Research Starters. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

Holden, COL. Russell J. Norwich University Cadet Handbook. Northfield, VT: Office of the Commandant, Norwich University. 2013.

Hutchison, Phillip J. "Leadership As An Ideograph: A Rhetorical Analysis Of Military Leadership Training Material." Journal Of Leadership Studies 7.3 (2013): 24-37. Business Source Complete. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

Purcell, Dallas. "Interview with a Real Live Cadet." Personal interview. 4 Mar. 2015.

Santos, David. "ROTC's Proud History." Soldiers 61.10 (2006): 38. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Stallard, Michael L., Carolyn Dewing-Hommes, and Jason Pankau. "Great Leaders Create Environments That Unlock Potential and Lift the Human Spirit." What Managers Say, What Employees Hear: Connecting with Your Front Line (so They'll Connect with Customers). By Regina Fazio. Maruca. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006. 18-19. Print.

Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community." Ed. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Genere Analysis: Engelish in Acdemic and Research Settings (1990): 21-32. Rpt. in Writing About Writing. 2nd ed. N.p.: Bedfords/St. Martin, n.d. 215-29. Print.

Wilson, Dale R. "The Leader Who Was General H. Norman Schwarzkopf." Command Performance Leadership. Automattic, Inc, 31 Dec. 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

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