Graduating Air Force and Army Reserve Officer's Training Corps cadets will be commissioned Saturday in the Student Union Auditorium.
Serving as the oldest land-grant university military program, ROTC is revered by alumni across the nation. The ROTC program exists to train commissioned officers for the U.S. military. Students in the program attend college just as any student would while they also learn basic military skills to prepare for actual military service.
Twelve Air Force ROTC cadets will be commissioned at 2 p.m. and 15 Army ROTC cadets will be commissioned at 4 p.m. Major General John R. Evans Jr., commanding general of the US Army Cadet Command (ROTC), will speak at the Army ceremony.
Some cadets will be recognized at their undergraduate ceremony. Each cadet commissions as a second lieutenant.
Air Force ROTC cadets
Interdisciplinary sciences major with a linguistics concentration Matthew Bolton, supply chain management major with a collateral in demand management Jake Lefler, supply chain management major Nikolas Osborne, and supply chain major Luke Whitehead were assigned to pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Electrical engineering major Liam Wingerd will also head to Mississippi, as a cyberspace operations officer at Keesler Air Force Base.
History major Henry Camp was assigned to be a contracting officer, and psychology major Christopher Leighton was assigned to be munitions and missile maintenance, each at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
Biological sciences major Jacqueline Hicks and geography major Emily Thibert were assigned as intelligence officers at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas. Civil engineering major Ryan Watkins will also head to Texas, with an assignment to pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base.
Supply chain management major Andrew Wilson was assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida as an air battle manager and biological sciences major William Young was assigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as a nuclear and missile operations officer.
Army ROTC cadets
Sociology major Christopher Benton, kinesiology major Austin Gentile, political science major Alexander Pugh, and kinesiology major Andrew Smith will commission to infantry, and soil science major Joseph Pozzi will commission to armor at Fort Benning, Georgia. Supply chain management major McKinley Cochran will also commission to Georgia, joining the Ordnance Corps at Fort Stewart.
Political science major Judy Senesvath will commission to the Ordinance Corps and electrical engineering major Ricky Simpkins will commission to field artillery, both at Fort Bliss in Texas.
Environmental economics major Kylie Logue commissions to aviation at Fort Rucker in Alabama and political science major Michael Land will commission to Transportation Corps at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Psychology major Sara Hanshaw will return to her home state of California, commissioning to military intelligence on reserve duty in Long Beach. Political science major Joseph Gaskins will commission to the Ordnance Corps at Fort Carson in Colorado and sociology major Dylan Yaksic will commission to the Quartermaster Corps at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Audiology major Reagan Manning will attend graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and kinesiology major Benjamin Franklin will commission to the Corps of Engineers on reserve duty in Knoxville.
ROTC holds tradition as oldest land-grant program
ROTC itself did not begin until 1916 in preparation for World War I. Albert Miller Lea, West Point military academy graduate, organized a Dragoon Infantry, an infantry that uses horses to march but not to fight, in 1844, and a uniform was soon adopted which quickly became famous across the nation.
When former Tennessee governor Aaron Brown asked for 2,800 troops to help in the Mexican-American war in 1846, 30,000 Tennesseans volunteered, including UT Dragoons. The large number of volunteers solidified Tennessee's title as the Volunteer state.
The Dragoons’ legacy lives on in the present day in the Army ROTC’s color guard. The color guard is revered as a place of honor, as cadets who participate carry and present the nation’s flag at various events.
The next change to the program came in 1867 with the passage of the Land-Grant College Act. The act provided the funds for military programs to place their primary focus on teaching, specifically teaching military tactics.
Almost 50 years after that act, the National Defense Act of 1916 began the ROTC program that the university participates in today. The act created government funding for parts of uniforms for students, and graduates were offered commissions as second lieutenants.
Air Corps training was added to the program in 1946 in response to the end of the second World War. The Armed Forces Unification Act of 1947 separated the Air Corps from the Army ROTC into its own program: Air Force ROTC.
Captain Morgan Berg, assistant professor of military science, said that prior to the 1960s, ROTC was required of all male students, but that the program has always received significant support no matter who participated.
“Up until, I believe, the early ‘60s, ROTC was a required course here at the university. Every male at the university had to take it at least one or two years,” Berg said. “And then after that, it became an optional course, and we’ve just always enjoyed great service from the school, very supportive.”
As the program became optional, more study focuses were offered to cadets. Modern cadets participate in a four-year program designed to equip students with the tools necessary to become an officer in the military while they take regular class schedules.
The introductory year covers basic concepts related to the U.S. military, such as uniforms, traditions and the program itself. Following the first year is a year dedicated to learning how to follow and how to be a soldier within a unit.
The third year of the program is devoted to tactics and teaching cadets basic infantry. Most of the time is dedicated to introducing cadets to war and giving them ample opportunities to train in the field.
The last year is spent with the colonel, when cadets learn the art of leading as an officer. Berg said the pressure put on the cadets to reach this level produces extremely mature graduates.
“It’s an interesting thing to become a new officer. I became an officer when I was 36 or 37 years old; these guys do it when they are 22. So at the age of 22, you’re immediately in charge of about 60 to 70 kids that are only a couple years younger than you,” Berg said. “So, there’s a lot to know about maturity.”
This maturity was something Gentile, a graduating cadet, told the “Daily Beacon” in a 2017 interview that he has had to learn.
“I’ve matured a lot from it. It has taught me how to be a leader, it has taught me how to relate to people. Everybody’s different. There (are) different ways to be a leader, and there (are) different ways that these people respond to leadership,” Gentile said. “Being in ROTC, representing the United States Army, representing the school, you know there’s a sense of professionalism that you need to have.”
The completion of the program gives cadets the opportunity to take three main career paths: active duty as a full-time military officer, a reserve officer serving part-time or serving in the national guard.
No matter students' choices, Gentile said that their time in the Vol Army instills a sense of pride.
“Having the amount of alumni just look at you and then knowing that you are representing what they had already established, it’s awesome.”
More information on UT's commencement ceremonies can be found here.