KOKOMO, Ind. — The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at Indiana University Kokomo keeps student Tyler Burke on track.
Burke, a senior from Tipton, credits the program with staying focused on college.
"Being in ROTC gives me motivation to stay to earn my degree, so I can qualify for the military career I want after college," he said. "Because of ROTC, I don't have to have a job outside of school. I can concentrate on being a student and earning my degree."
In addition, ROTC has helped Burke set goals for himself.
"If I wasn't in ROTC, I'd just be coasting. This demands a goal, and accountability toward reaching that goal. I am a better student than I would be without it."
The ROTC program here has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 2008 – from two students to nearly 30 expected to enroll this fall semester.
Rob Whittenburg, assistant professor of military science, said the increase is not only good for the campus, but also beneficial to the region as well.
"Our cadets serve their country, either in active duty or in the National Guard or Reserves," Whittenburg said. "Many of them come back to their communities after their military service as experienced leaders. They offer something back to their communities after they have served."
Brady James, a senior from Fairmount, plans to serve as an Army Ranger.
"Being in ROTC pushes us hard. We have to get the best grades possible to get the assignment we want in the military," James said. "This gives me an incentive to do my homework and excel in the classroom and in physical training."
IU Kokomo's corps is part of the Capital Warrior Battalion, based at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis.
Students in the first two years of ROTC focus on leadership development, and have no military service obligation unless they receive ROTC scholarships. Cadets who want to complete the entire four-year program agree to service in the Army, Reserves or National Guard after graduation. They may earn scholarships and stipends for living expenses, books, and fees.
Junior year cadets begin leading platoon-level operations, including evaluating other cadets and providing feedback to corps leadership. At the end of the year, juniors may qualify to attend a five-week leadership development course at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Seniors learn battalion-level operations, paired with a mentor currently serving in that position.
Whittenburg said ROTC gradually builds on what cadets have learned, "so they develop confidence in their own leadership ability. The real-time, practical feedback throughout the year really helps them."
Cadets graduate as commissioned second lieutenants, and may compete for an active duty appointment or serve in the National Guard or Army Reserves.
Whittenburg said with approximately 7,000 cadets graduating each year, competition is fierce for active duty jobs.
"It used to be if you wanted active duty, you could serve active duty," he said. "Now they are ranked based on merit and have to compete for those jobs. It is a great incentive for cadets to excel, both in the classroom and in physical training."
James encouraged other students to consider joining ROTC.
"It is a huge experience. You learn how to be a leader and how to work with all kinds of people. It sets you up for a career out of college, and it opens doors for you. With the military, you have a job when you graduate. Not many students can say that."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.