My experience with the Reserve
Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), or
even the military, for that matter,
was limited at best. While attending
high school in the Philippines, I was
excused from the otherwise required
Citizen’s Army Training because I was
an American citizen. When my father
left at 6 a.m. every day dressed in
camouflage, part of me thought he was
going to play paintball; I never noticed
the insignia on his collar.
I was unaware that my dad was a Lieutenant
Colonel in the Philippine Air Force until a man
called our home asking for Lieutenant Colonel
Villavicencio. Much to my dad’s amusement, I
told them that they had the wrong number and
hung up on them. Up until last week, the only
thing I knew about ROTC or the military was
that they got to play with weapons, followed
strict rules, and were physically fit.
RIT is the host of two Reserve Officers’ Training
Corps (ROTC) programs: Army and Air Force.
Our Air Force ROTC Detachment 538 Blue Tigers
and Army ROTC Tiger Battalion also serves
several schools in the greater Rochester area
including the University of Rochester, St. John
Fischer, SUNY Brockport, and Monroe Community
The ROTC Basics
In 1862, the US government passed the Morill Act,
which started the creation of land-grant colleges
that allowed members of the industrial classes to
pursue an education in various subjects. As part
of the act, all land-granted colleges were required
to include military tactics in their curriculum.
After some improvement, this idea became
known as the ROTC.
“Large campuses such as Penn State actually became
military training grounds or officer corps
because we needed experienced leaders,” said
Cadet Giovanni Sorrentino, a fifth year Mechanical
Engineering major at RIT and this quarter’s
Air Force Wing Commander. This came in handy
when World War II rolled in and there occurred
an officer shortage in the Armed Forces.
“We needed people who would be able to step up
and were trained to lead combat operations,” continues
Sorrentino. However, nowadays ROTC “is essentially
a four-year leadership development program,”
defined Second Lieutenant David Sanoguera,
a graduate of the Army ROTC program who now
works as a leader in the RIT Tiger Battalion.
Today, there are three options or services: Air
Force, Army, and Navy; The Navy also recruits for
the Marine Corps and the Army also recruits for
the National Guard. Unfortunately, RIT only offers
Army and Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) on campus.
Those interested in joining Navy ROTC may crossregister
at the University of Rochester.
Enlisting vs. Enrolling
When you enlist in any service, whether it be
straight out of high school or before you hit the
maximum age of your target service group, you
start from the very bottom of the ladder and work
your way up to become a non-commissioned officer
(NCO). “If you were to enlist in the Air Force,
you’d go in as an Airman Basic, go to boot camp,
[complete] your technical training, and then you
go into your field,” explaind Cadet Stephen DiFulvio,
a Criminal Justice major at SUNY Brockport
and this quarter’s AFROTC Recruiting and Retention
Officer. Similarly, if you were to enlist in the
Army, you would start out as a Private and work
your way up. On the other hand, when you enroll
and graduate from an ROTC program, you start as
a Second Lieutenant once you commission.
To explain this further, let’s say you know both a
Second Lieutenant who just graduated from ROTC
and a NCO who has been with the Army for 15 to
18 years. The NCO now ranks as a Master Sergeant.
“The Second Lieutenant outranks that Master Sergeant,
but there’s a huge amount of respect there...
While he’ll salute us outside and call us, ‘Sir’, we
have to respect him or her and what he or she
has to say because they [have] more experience.
There’s a good chance that they know more about
the actual subject,” explaind Sanoguera.
Becoming and Remaining a
Part of ROTC
Applying to Army ROTC or AFROTC is easy. “We
take anybody...Basically just come down to our
detachment which is located in Building 10 and
speak with Captain Arsenault,” said Sorrentino.
Similarly, one can just walk into the Army ROTC
office and ask about joining. However, in order to
be considered for the program and its benefits,
you must meet a strict set of requirements.
For all ROTC programs, each of the applicants
must be a US citizen no younger than 17 years
old and no older than the service’s maximum age.
The applicant must also meet the service’s physical
standards and be of good moral standing.
In addition, while the Army and Navy check SAT
or ACT scores, the Air Force requires you to pass
the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT),
which is a test of similar nature. According to
Arsenault, “Unless you’re a pilot or a navigator,
we’re really only concentrating on the verbal,
quantitative, and academic aptitude.”
Another important factor is your GPA. “[Maintaining
your] GPA is essential to being a cadet...They
want educated and intelligent individuals [and
your] GPA says a lot about you. You need at least
a 2.5 just to apply to ROTC” said Sanoguera. Dropping
below the 2.0 mark will merit academic probation
Fortunately, most services offer mentorship programs
where younger students are paired up with
older, more experienced students. “We do our best
to link up mentors of the same or similar major...
who’s maybe had that same professor, had that
class, or has been there and done that — who can
help walk him or her through and help get their
grades up,” explained Second Lieutenant Michael
Culler, a graduate of the ROTC program, 2008 RIT
alumnus in Criminal Justice, and current leader
in RIT’s Tiger Battalion.
Additionally, all cadets are expected to maintain
physical fitness standards, which can vary
from service to service. This is the reason why
all ROTC programs require Physical Training
(PT). At the beginning of Fall quarter and the
end of Spring quarter, cadets must pass the
required physical fitness exam which involves
sit-ups, push-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. “You can
enroll in the program and participate, but to be
contracted with the Army, you have to pass the
Department of Defense physical because the
Army will ask us to do things sometimes that
you need to be very healthy to do,” said Culler.
The same applies to AFROTC.
Scholarships and Benefits
ROTC cadets receive a nontaxable monthly stipend
of $300 in their first year. An additional $50
will be added for each consecutive year, but the
amount will be capped at $500. In addition, they
will be eligible for a scholarship to apply towards
their tuition and $900 (for Air Force) or $1200 (for
Army) in book money every year.
If you enroll into Army ROTC straight out of
high school and are accepted into the program,
you will receive a full four-year scholarship.
“The Army pays for the tuition side and
RIT [covers] the incentive room and board,”
explained Sanoguera. For those who decide to
join later, two-year and three-year scholarships
are also available.
Fifth year Criminal Justice major Andrew Harris demonstrates to new cadets how to march during an ROTC airforce training session.
If you are a freshman or sophomore who either
did not receive a scholarship coming out of high
school or enrolled in the program late, you can
apply for the In-College Scholarship Program
where there are two phases of selection — one
ends in January while the other ends in June.
“For Phase One, [winners] will receive $15,000
per year for tuition [while for] Phase Two, the
scholarship is a little less at $9,000 per year,”
explained Captain Timothy Arsenault, Assistant
Professor of Aerospace Studies for RIT’s Detachment
AFROTC also has an Express Scholarship Program
where aid is capped at $15,000 and is offered to
students enrolled in specific majors and fields who
are graduating in specific years. “All scholarships
are competition-based except for the Express
Scholarships for special programs like Nursing,
some of the engineering career fields...There is
no competing against others so as long as you’re
qualified, we’ll take you,” explained Arsenault.
The benefits of being a part of ROTC exceed
financial aid. Top cadets are given special
opportunities to train like the real US Army or
Air Force. As an added bonus, sometimes these
programs (at least the longer and more in-depth
ones) even count towards co-op credit.
The Army ROTC receives slots for different
specialty schools including the US Army
Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia; the
different Air Assault schools, the Mountain
Warfare school in Jericho, Vermont; and the
Northern Warfare school in Fort Greely, Alaska.
“These are all optional and [cadets] don’t have
to go, but it’s considered a great honor,” said
The slots are only offered to those who make it
to the top of the detachment’s order merit list.
“Airborne school is traditionally an airborne
operations course where you jump from a fixedwing
airplane with a parachute and a full load.
Air Assault is basically learning how to rappel
from a helicopter,” explained Culler.
The AFROTC also offers optional but interesting
summer programs including base visits, aircraft
orientation rides, foreign language immersions,
and even a trip to England under the Royal Air
Force’s British Exchange Program.
“We had one cadet go to the Czech Republic for
three weeks where he lived there with other
cadets and just toured around and experienced
the culture,” cited Lieutenant Colonel David
Easley, Commander of RIT’s Detachment 538.
Whichever you choose, the Air Force will provide
for your transportation, meals, lodging, and a daily
An RIT favorite is the five-week long Cyber Warrior
Boot Camp in Rome Labs. “[The Air Force picks]
cadets who are electrical engineers and computer
engineers and they are taught by Symantec —
and other experts in that field — about hacking
computers,” explained Easley, all the while
undergoing other types of military training and
learning about historical battlefield decisions.
The Army ROTC requires a completion of an
additional 34 credits, PT, and field training. In your
first two years with the program, you will also
complete the Army ROTC Basic Course, which gives
an introduction to Army leadership, customs, and
traditions and then later delves into the role and
responsibilities of an officer.
The summer before your third year, you must
complete a four-week Leader’s Training Course
where cadets are expected to overcome the simulated
tactical situations and obstacles with which
they are faced.
In your final two years, you will complete the
Army ROTC Advanced Course. Upon entering and
continuing with this course, you make the commitment
to serve as an Officer in the US Army after
graduation. In the summer between your third
and fourth year, you may complete a four-week
Leader Development and Assessment Course.
The Air Force ROTC requires a completion of
four sets of classes: AS100s, AS200s, AS300s, and
AS400s. In addition, cadets must participate in
Leadership Laboratories and PT, both of which are
mandatory but count for no credit. The AS100s
and 200s, which you take in your first two years,
count as a General Military course.
“A lot of it is just teaching you the customs and
courtesies of the air force, how to wear the uniform
properly. It gives you an overview on the
jobs, like what you want your career to be,” said
DiFulvio describing the AS100 course. The AS200
course is History of Airpower and goes into the
history of Air Force.
The summer before your third year, you must
attend Field Training where cadets undergo
physical conditioning, weapons training, and
survival training. The program may run between
four and six weeks.
Once you return to school in your third year, you
enter the Professional Officer Course (POC). Upon
beginning this course, you must sign a contract and
make the commitment to becoming an officer for
the US Air Force. The POC is comprised of the AS300
and AS400 classes.
The AS300 course is Leadership Studies and goes
into detail on how to be a leader. The AS400 class,
which also counts as an international relations
class, is otherwise known as National Security
Studies and Preparation for Active Duty. “We
study different regions of the world and what’s
going on with their culture, their social practices
and beliefs, and how they compare and contrast
to our society. Also, we talk about national security...
and logistics,” added Sorrentino.
For some of these Army ROTC and AFROTC classes,
they may count as free electives or general
education electives depending on your department. PT counts as Wellness courses and the
AS200 history class may count towards a history
or social studies credit. However, it is really up to
your department. The summer Field Training may
also be counted towards a co-op.
Future Careers in the Military
It is important to keep note that once you either
accept a scholarship or begin the Army ROTC
Advanced Course or AFROTC’s POC, you make a
commitment to commission in the Army or Air
Force. You have the choice of becoming an officer
as a career or coming into your service as
an officer, staying for four years (six to ten if you
become an Air Force pilot or navigator), and then
staying in the country’s on-call list for a few years
As an Army ROTC cadet, you must make a list of
the jobs you would like to do once active. Then, the
Army takes them into account and assigns to you
what they can. There are a wide variety of choices
available: You can join the Field Artillery, Air Defense
Artillery or Infantry; as part of the Armor division,
you can work with and drive tanks; you can
learn to fly choppers and planes with the Aviation
division; the Chemical Corps enables you to learn
about chemical, nuclear, biological, and other dangerous
weapons and how to protect oneself from
them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Air Force works in the same way and there are
also a wide variety of jobs available. You have the
choice of being one of a dozen types of pilots or a
navigators You may also have the option of becoming
an astronaut, part of Intelligence, or a member
of the Munitions and Missile Maintenance division.
There are also a number of options for people
trained in medical fields.
Take it from someone who went through the Army ROTC Program at RIT. When this article was written, it was a great place to be. Since then however, a new commander came in and ruined the program. I was one of the top Cadets in the program at that time and now I'm disenrolled from the program because I sent a complaint to the Army. After the Army investigated the ROTC program at RIT, the Army substantiated the following about the new commander and the Army ROTC program at RIT:
"Substantiated Allegation: (Name is digitally blocked out) demonstrated poor leadership and fostered a negative command climate in violation of paragraph 2-1, Chapter 2, AR 600-100, Army Leadership.
Synopsis: A Physica... (more)l limitation and an aloof manner of personal interaction combined to create a perception that (Name is digitally blocked out) did not set an example of leading from the front. Her staff became polarized, and Cadets did not trust her. Negative perceptions of her leadership were adversely impacting retention and the functionality of her staff.
"It appeared that an average Cadet at RIT would be above average in many other programs. This resulted in an elitist attitude; essentially the cadre could afford to lose or not contract a fully qualified Cadet. It was also apparent that the cadre to Cadet Ratio was close to overwhelming the staff and as a result the Cadets absorbed additional responsibility. Though this is good from a developmental perspective there is evidence that overburdening MS III and MS IV students adversely affected their GPAs and overall academic performance. In fact 46% of all administrative suspensions in the last two calendar years have been due to MSIII and MSIV Cadets not meeting minimum academic requirements."
Avoid this program if you're a fan of Justice and fair treatment. Try Brockport instead. If you want to know more about me, or think that perhaps I could not cut it in the program, watch the following Youtube video before you make up your mind:
After I was disenrolled, the Assistant Secretary of the Army released me from paying back $20,000 because of what my commanding officer put me through at RIT. My older brother is a 2nd Lieutenant commissioned through RIT and even he would tell you to avoid this program whatever you do.