Every Army unit or organization can trace its roots back to a specific date and place and, in some instances, a single person. The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, ROTC, is no different.
While military historians generally use 1916 as the date when the Army officially established the concept of the Citizen’s Army, Army ROTC actually got its start as early as 1819 when Alden Partridge, often referred to as the father of ROTC, founded the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy in Vermont, later to become Norwich University.
As one of the first superintendents of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Partridge considered military subjects to be a necessary part of the college curriculum; regardless of the vocation students would choose as future careers. Military instruction was a profound concept for the hall of academia in 1819, but his idea met with success and flourished, rapidly spreading to other schools: Virginia Military Institute, the University of Tennessee and the Citadel.
Partridge was a visionary and right on target in his thinking. He believed that combining a college curriculum with Army training was cohesive; it prepared the student by developing human relationships, a sense of responsibility and, above all, leadership.
Many cadets today would undoubtedly cringe at the curriculum that was offered at early Norwich University. Demanding would be too tame a word to describe what the life of an ROTC cadet was like.
They were required to study five different languages, five types of law and 10 types of math. All that was in addition to studying every type of military theory beginning with Biblical times.
Cadets marched endlessly and conducted drill and ceremony that was so impressive local villagers would gather to watch.
By the start of the 20th century, Partridge’s experiment caught on. One-hundred and five colleges and universities offered some military instruction as part of their academic programs.
By 1917, a year after the formal establishment of ROTC, and with the entry of the United States in World War I, some 90,000 officers who had received their commissions through ROTC were available in the reserve pool.
More than 100,000 officers commissioned through ROTC served during World War II, and since then more than 328,000 officers have prepared for their commissions through Army ROTC.
Like our country, the Army and Army ROTC have undergone significant changes since its humble beginnings. One-hundred and eighty six years since the establishment of the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, Army ROTC has grown into a vital program that produces college-trained officers for the active Army, Army National Guard and the Army Reserves.
Army ROTC has become an integral part of the education for thousands of young men and women who choose to become Army officers in 270 colleges and universities throughout the nation. It’s a unique program that has provided many with the opportunity to work toward a college education and a commission as an Army officer.
Through Army ROTC, the Army gains officers with diverse educational backgrounds and contemporary ideas. ROTC graduates walk away from their campuses academically enriched. They walk away leaders.