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In the Army: professional prospects for Pitt ROTC

Sophomore+psychology+and+Arabic+major+Elizabeth+Luoma+holds+out+her+marine+corps+ROTC-issued+cover.
Sophomore psychology and Arabic major Elizabeth Luoma holds out her marine corps ROTC-issued cover.

Sophomore psychology and Arabic major Elizabeth Luoma holds out her marine corps ROTC-issued cover.

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Sophomore psychology and Arabic major Elizabeth Luoma holds out her marine corps ROTC-issued cover.

By Grant Burgman, News Editor

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Well before most Pitt students have hit snooze on their first alarm every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, students in the Army ROTC program are on the lawn outside Bellefield Hall enduring PT — physical training.

Junior emergency medicine major Emma Frasier is one of those early risers training. She says her schedule is actually manageable, despite having to be at PT three times a week at 6 a.m.

“I pretty much get up at 5 a.m. every day — every day, even if we don’t have ROTC because I have other responsibilities,” Frasier said. “There’s a lot of time outside ROTC that you need to spend working on it, but it’s not overwhelming at all.”

Frasier is just one of 275 cadets in Pitt’s program, which makes it one of the biggest programs in the country, according to Sgt. 1st Class James Henderson, a military science teacher with Pitt ROTC.

In Pitt’s ROTC program, students receive a full-tuition scholarship as well as $600 a semester to cover the cost of books and a $420 monthly stipend. Students who already have a full-tuition scholarship, through athletics or academics, can instead choose to accept a $10,000 room-and-board scholarship.

Frasier received one of these scholarships coming out of high school, where she was involved with a junior ROTC program. She said part of the reason she was involved in the program was to help her in senior ROTC.

“I did it so that I could get that sort of edge on the scholarship — also just so I could see what it was like, and it was similar in some ways, but also different,” Frasier said.

While Frasier used her experience in junior ROTC in her decision to join Pitt’s program, that’s not the sole purpose of the junior ROTC programs that are found in more than 1,700 high schools across the country, according to Henderson.

“Actually, we are expressly not allowed to use junior ROTC as a recruiting tool for senior ROTC,” Henderson said.

Still, Frasier decided to join Pitt’s program right out of high school. This was partly based on her experience in JROTC and partly based on her family’s military history — her grandfather was in the army during World War II.

She said that even as a first-year, the ROTC program made it easy for her to adjust her schedule because they increase cadets’ responsibilities incrementally.

“Freshman year, you’re just learning the basics, so you don’t really have that much outside of the classroom in ROTC,” Frasier said. “Each year you go up, it gets a little bit and a little bit more, so it’s pretty gradual, and you kind of get used to the whole idea of it intensifying every year.”

Christopher Boissonnault, the scholarship and enrollment officer in Pitt’s ROTC program, estimated that between 75 and 80 percent of cadets in the program start as first-years like Frasier did. Students that join after their first year at Pitt have a bit more difficulty adjusting to the program.

“We can put a freshman or a sophomore in, so even if they’ve missed a semester or a full year, we do have some things to make up that time,” Boissonnault said.

Henderson said that the older students find the program more difficult because they miss the important early training that the program offers.

“If you take one of those other non-traditional paths, where you don’t do all four years with us, you miss some of that foundational training,” Henderson said.

Once students get through the program, they have several career options after graduation. They can join the army on active duty, join part-time as a reserve — meaning they only have to report to base one weekend every month — or take an education delay, allowing them to pursue a master’s degree.

Frasier said she plans to report for active duty upon her graduation.

“My goal is to go active duty, either in the aviation branch of the army or in the medical services,” Frasier said.

Boissonnault said Pitt’s program commonly graduates students who go into medical fields of the army or take medical professions in their civilian jobs. He also said Pitt’s program separates itself from others by having a majority of female cadets.

“One of the unique things about this program, we are the most female-integrated program in the U.S.,” Boissonnault said.

One of those graduates that has gone into a medical profession with the army is 2nd Lt. Kristian Hill, who’s currently stationed at Fort Sam in Houston in the army’s Basic Officer Leaders Course for nurses. She said her experience with Pitt’s ROTC program helped her prepare for her career in the army.

“[Pitt ROTC cadres] teach us the basics of being a soldier, but also that other side of not only being a soldier, but being a leader. So they teach us all about leadership,” she said.

Hill originally came to Pitt intending to join the Air Force, but opted to join the Army ROTC program because of what the Army offered to nursing students. Between her junior and senior years, Hill was sent out to work at hospitals as part of an internship with the Army.

“You’re starting IVs, you’re doing EKGs, you’re doing assessments, you’re doing everything — and that was something that the Air Force didn’t offer, either,” Hill said.

Hill said she enjoyed her time in Pitt’s Army ROTC program but understood that the program offers a challenge to some students.

“There are some people that haven’t managed that time management and they haven’t quite figured it out. So they join and then their grades drop, or you know something just doesn’t work out for them,” she said. “I think anybody can do it, it’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to put into it and how much dedication you have toward the program.”

Frasier, who still has a year left in the program, echoed Hill’s assessment of the program. She said that ROTC has offered her experiences that have shaped her today.

“I’m semi-afraid of heights and we have this rappel tower that we go to for the field training exercises every semester, and that fear was gone a few times after I did it,” Frasier said. “Conquering something like that in a program like this makes me a better leader.”

 

A previous version of this article said that the ROTC awards $600 a month to cadets for books instead of $600 a semester. The The Pitt News regrets this error.

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In the Army: professional prospects for Pitt ROTC