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The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based program for training commissioned officers of the United States armed forces. ROTC officers serve in all branches of the U.S. armed forces. ROTC graduates constitute 56 percent of U.S. Army officers, 11 percent of U.S. Marine Corps officers, 20 percent of U.S. Navy officers, and 41 percent of U.S. Air Force officers, for a combined 39 percent of all active duty officers in the Department of Defense.
Under ROTC, a student may receive a competitive, merit-based scholarship, covering all or part of college tuition, in return for an obligation of active military service after graduation. The U.S. Coast Guard offers a similar program to ROTC under a different name: CSPI (College Student Pre-commissioning Initiative).
ROTC students attend college like other students, but also receive basic military training and officer training for their chosen branch of service, through the ROTC unit at the college or university. The students participate in regular drills during the school year, and extended training activities during the summer.
Army ROTC units are organized as brigades, battalions, and companies. Air Force ROTC units are detachments with the students organized into wings, groups, squadrons, and flights. Army and Air Force ROTC students are referred to as cadets. Navy ROTC units are organized as battalions, and also include Marine ROTC students. Marine ROTC students may be formed in a separate company when the program includes sufficient numbers. Navy ROTC students are referred to as midshipmen.
The term of obligatory service varies among the services.
Army ROTC students who receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course must agree to complete an eight-year period of service. This can include three years active duty (four years for scholarship winners), with the balance in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).
The service obligation for a Navy ROTC student is five years in the Navy, or four years in the Marine Corps.
The service obligation for an Air Force ROTC student is four years, or six years for Combat Systems Officers or Air Battle Management officers, or ten years for pilots.
The concept of ROTC in the United States began with the Morrill Act of 1862 which established the land-grant colleges. Part of the federal government's requirement for these schools was that they include military tactics as part of their curriculum, forming what became known as ROTC. The college from which ROTC originated is Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. Norwich was founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.
Until the 1960s, many major universities required compulsory ROTC for all of their male students. However, because of the protests that culminated in the opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, compulsory ROTC was dropped in favor of voluntary programs. In some places ROTC was expelled from campus altogether, although it was always possible to participate in off-campus ROTC.
In the 21st century, the debate often focuses around the Congressional don't ask, don't tell law, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and in force until 2011, which forbade homosexuals serving in the United States military from disclosing their sexual orientation at the risk of expulsion. Some schools believed this legal mandate would require them to waive or amend their non-discrimination policies.
In recent years, concerted efforts are being made at some Ivy League universities that have previously banned ROTC, including Columbia, to return ROTC to campus. The Harvard ROTC program was reinstated effective March 4, 2011, following enactment of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.
Under current law, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element.
One difference between civilian colleges and the senior or junior military colleges is enrollment option in ROTC. ROTC is voluntary for students attending civilian colleges and universities; however, with few exceptions (as outlined in both Army regulations and federal law), it is required of students attending the senior and junior military colleges. Another major difference between the senior military colleges and civilian colleges is that under federal law, graduates of the SMCs are guaranteed active duty assignments if requested.
The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (AROTC) program is the largest branch of ROTC, as the Army is the largest branch of the military. Army ROTC provides the majority of the Army's officer corps; the remainder comes from West Point, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or direct commissions.
AROTC offers two-year and two-and-a-half-year scholarships.
The two-year scholarship is available for students with two academic years of college remaining. An applicant for a two-year scholarship must meet the following requirements.
The applicant must agree to accept a commission and serve in the Army on Active Duty or in a Reserve Component (U.S. Army Reserve or Army National Guard)
The two-and-a-half-year scholarship is available for students already enrolled in a college or university with three academic years remaining.
An applicant for a two-and-a-half-year scholarship must meet the requirements for a two-year scholarship, and also have a minimum SAT score of 920 or ACT score of 19
The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program was founded in 1926; in 1932, the U.S. Marine Corps joined the program. The naval NROTC program is offered at over 150 colleges nation wide.
The first Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (then Air ROTC) units were established between 1920 and 1923 at the University of California, Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the University of Washington, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University. After World War II, the Air Force established ROTC units at 77 colleges and universities throughout the United States.
The Solomon Amendment denies federal funding to any university with a "policy or practice" that prevents the military from "maintaining, establishing or operating" ROTC on its campus. Such universities are allowed to require that ROTC adhere to the same policies as the university's other academic programs. According to Diane Mazur of the Palm Center, the military has withdrawn ROTC from a number of universities rather than adapt to those policies or accept extracurricular status. In her analysis, both the military and academe, as of the fall of 2010, preferred not to dispute the public perception that elite universities had banned ROTC programs. She wrote:
The military may be more comfortable when it retreats to parts of the country ... where universities don’t ask a lot of questions .... [C]olleges may also be more comfortable when they go along with the fiction of banning R.O.T.C., because then they don't have to answer to people upset about "don't ask, don't tell." Everyone buys into the myth, but at the expense of military readiness. The military needs to return to the colleges it walked away from, and everyone needs to stop pretending that R.O.T.C. programs ended because of a ban.
Others argue that universities effectively ban ROTC by erecting procedural hurdles motivated by anti-military sentiment and objections to discrimination based on sexual orientation that only serve to "discourage their own presumably egalitarian, intelligent, and enlightened students from joining."
ROTC programs were subject to the military's ban on service by open gays and lesbians known as "Don't ask don't tell." LGBT students occasionally protested ROTC as a proxy for the policy. An act to repeal the policy was signed by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, and implementation took effect September 20, 2011.
Some other national armed forces in countries with strong historical ties to the United States have ROTC programs.
The National ROTC Alumni Association (NRAA) of the Philippines estimates that 75 percent of the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines come from ROTC.
ROTC in the Republic of Korea started in 1963.
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