Juliane Cherry knew she wanted to pursue Temple University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program after seeing the example set by her family members who devoted their lives to military service.
“My father is in the Air Force and my brother, my uncle, [and] my grandfather were in the Army,” said Cherry, an ROTC cadet and sophomore public health major. “And from all those people in my close circle, I found that I really admired all of the values that they held themselves to.”
Students in Temple’s Army ROTC program balance aspirations of joining the military with other activities that challenge them socially and academically. Despite their demanding schedules, most students are able to gain leadership skills while in the program, like managing groups of people from different backgrounds, that prepare them for careers in the military and in civilian life.
Student participation in the program comes amid national declines in U.S. military recruiting that are straining the future of the country’s armed forces.
Despite the nationwide constraints, Temple’s ROTC still recruits a consistent number of cadets, many of whom see a path to reach future personal and professional goals by participating in the program.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
While some countries require military service, the U.S. has maintained an all-volunteer force since 1973 that relies on recruiting young people to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines Corps.
The Army fell 25 percent short of its 2022 recruiting goal and Congress has routinely held hearings discussing ways to address shortfalls, which may pose national security risks.
The possibility of death and injury, post-traumatic stress disorder concerns and leaving family and friends were listed as top reasons why individuals ages 16-21 don’t want to join the military, according to a 2021 report from the Department of Defense.
Recruiting also lags when national unemployment rates are low as young people feel more comfortable pursuing non-military careers. Despite fears of a looming recession, the U.S. currently only has a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, according to a November report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I think the civilian world is kind of crushing it right now when it comes to salaries and stuff,” said Sophia Gulotti, an ROTC cadet and senior nursing major. “I don’t know if the pandemic has been taken into account, but I’m sure that has had a lot to do with the numbers going down too because people can make money from home doing their civilian job.”
The military has also struggled to connect with potential recruits due to the lack of in-person opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To mitigate against the social and economic reasons why people may not want to serve, the Army has implemented and reemphasized a variety of benefits it offers.
“Quick ship bonuses of up to $40,000 are available for individuals who can ship within 45 days of signing a contract,” wrote Brian McGovern, deputy director of public affairs at U.S. Army Recruiting Command in an email to The Temple News. “The Army also continues to offer 30 paid vacation days annually, comprehensive health care, family services, and career support.”
There are roughly 120 cadets in Temple’s ROTC program and as many as 150 have participated in recent years. While the program’s recruiting figures have remained steady, a key component to ensuring they remain that way is by promoting the program and its potential benefits, said Marc Young, an enrollment officer in Temple’s Department of Military Science.
“We make the effort to get the word out there,” Young said. “So that if [students] have an inherent interest, it will give them a way of, ‘Oh, you know, I always want to do that, let me try this’ versus ‘Who the heck are they?’”.
ROTC receives assistance from Temple Athletics, the Honors Program and the university’s nursing program which all make their students aware of the program and how to join, Young said.
Cherry benefited from the program’s recruiting efforts after she was offered a four-year scholarship that she accepted instead of an athletic scholarship at the Virginia Military Institute.
‘YOU’RE A STUDENT FIRST’
Although cadets focus on their potential military goals, they balance participating in the program with their academics and other extracurricular activities.
All ROTC cadets arrive at 6:30 a.m. at Geasey Field every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for physical training. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they participate in military science labs where students learn tactics like land navigation.
Despite the weekly requirements, cadets are advised that their academics are the priority and the program gives students space to focus on completing assignments when they feel overwhelmed.
“In the program, it’s emphasized that you’re a student first,” said Kevin Stine, an ROTC cadet and sophomore management information systems major. “So if you have issues, you can go to people and they’ll be more lenient.”
Gulotti has integrated her ROTC requirements into her athletic schedule during her four years of competing for Temple Women’s Track and Field. Despite creating a routine for herself, there have been moments when constant meetings and other requirements have been challenging, Gulotti said.
“There were times where I would have an ROTC meeting like a few times a week and it was just like, ‘Gosh, I’ve been in uniform four days this week, when am I gonna have a break?’’.
Gulotti has inspired Cherry, her fellow track and field teammate, to find ways to balance her busy schedule while being committed to the values of the program.
“I saw that she was engaged in everything at Temple University,” Cherry said. “She’s a nursing student, she’s a cadet, she’s an athlete and all around she’s a people servant.”
Cherry’s responsibilities have also impacted her ability to participate in the traditional college experience as she often has to sacrifice hanging out with friends to keep up with her assignments.
“I have a lot of conversations with my close friends, long and deep conversations about how I might not always be there physically for them, but if they ever really truly need me, then I’ll be there of course,” Cherry said.
Some ROTC cadets can take advantage of programs like the United States Army Airborne School, where they can receive paratrooper lessons and learn skills they wouldn’t be able to gain on a college campus.
However, those opportunities are typically available depending on how much funding a university’s ROTC program has to send cadets across the country or parts of Europe to participate, Young said.
“There’s only so much funding and so many slots,” Young said. “If everybody wants to go to airborne school, I can’t send everybody.”
Most cadets are able to pair their academic pursuits with potential careers in the military, which allows them to learn all they can while staying in Philadelphia.
After she graduates in May, Gulotti plans to use her nursing education to hopefully pursue a career in the Army.
“I really want to see where I can go in the Army through nursing,” Gulotti said. “And I think that my nursing career can take me to a lot of cool places around the world but also care for a really cool population.”
Cherry ultimately hopes to become a health care attorney. She’s still excited for her future in ROTC while at Temple and how she’ll grow during her remaining time as a cadet.
“I love this program,” Cherry said. “I think that it is a crawl, walk, run program where we learn a lot of things over this four-year period and ultimately we’ll become great leaders, people servants and everything of the above.”