ROTC gives its students honor, friendship

Theresa Montgomery

ROTC students meet for a leadership lab in Terrace Hall to learn about different military tactics. ROTC students meet every Thursday, and the skills students receive in Army ROTC include leadership development, military skills and adventure training. ARIA

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Flat-footed, sturdy black boots tap the floor. Tan shirts peek out from each of the open collars of multi-hued camouflage outfits.

Topping each of these battle duty uniforms is the attentive expression on the face of a cadet in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, as they gather in the Terrace Hall Annex for this Call for Fire field training exercise.

U.S. Army field operations protocol – the handling of howitzers, tanks and targets – flit through Cadet Nathaniel Carsey’s PowerPoint lecture.

“We’ve got some great students here. They’re motivated. They’re focused,” said Lt. Col. Dean Costas, departmental head of the Army ROTC at Kent State. “They know it’s a dangerous business. They’ve made a decision to be a professional, and they’re pursuing it,” he said.

Army Cadet Joel Newburn, sophomore political science major, said ROTC is an integral part of his experience as a Kent State student.

“To me, it’s a point of pride to be able to wear a uniform that says ‘United States Army’ on it. It’s huge to me,” he said.

ROTC students generally dress in civilian clothing as they go about their lives on campus, Newburn said. But on the days he is required to wear military garb, he notices a difference in his outlook.

“When I put that uniform on, I’m representing the Army,” he said. “I probably even walk a different way when I wear that uniform. You’re a different person; you have different manners. I don’t think people treat you differently, but it’s an intrinsic type of feeling.”

Carrying on a family legacy is important to Newburn as he gains experience in the military.

His father was an infantryman during the Vietnam War who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor, he said. Newburn’s brother is currently a staff sergeant in the Air Force stationed in Kyrgyzstan.

Pages of military history echo through his family album.

“Just about every generation, I can go back,” Newburn said. “I’ve got pictures of relatives in Civil War garb – some tintype photos.”

He wears this heritage with honor, he said.

“I’m really big into military history. I guess that kind of means a lot to you, to know you’re carrying that on,” he said.

Mary Clause, sophomore political science major, is an Air Force ROTC cadet. She transferred to Kent State from Capital University, in central Ohio, where, in 2001, she enlisted in the Air Force Reserve.

Clause, 24, said she sees herself as a bit older than the average Air Force ROTC student at Kent State.

“Some of the cadets in my year have kind of affectionately started calling me, ‘Grandma,'” Clause said. “There’s a few of us old kids, but mostly it’s younger people,” she said of the cadets in her detachment.

Clause’s younger sister, Jen Clause, is a paramedic student at Akron General Hospital. She has noticed the closeness her older sister and the other ROTC cadets have developed with each other.

“They all do things together,” Jen said. “Not because they have to get along, but because they’re actual friends.”

Newburn said his father was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private during the Vietnam War.

“My dad would rather see me in the military, but not doing something in a combat role because he’s been there and he’s done it. He’s said several times, ‘I’ve done enough for our family in Vietnam.'” Newburn said.

While taking others’ views into consideration, Newburn said he is sure of where he stands.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you want to go to Iraq?'” he said. “And I guess the best answer is, ‘So that someone else doesn’t have to.’ I’m in ROTC to become an officer. Everybody’s got their own motivation for doing what they do, I suppose.”

Contact features correspondent Theresa Montgomery at [email protected].