ROTC programs developing future leaders


Shayla Waugh And Tara Halbritter

SDSU’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs are developing, training and commissioning the future leaders of the U.S. Army and Air Force.

“The biggest thing that students take away from the Military Science program is leadership experiences,” said department head Lt. Col. John Holter. “Whether they plan on joining the army or just learning about it, they will all take away crucial ideas of what leadership is about.”

The department offers a minor in military science. Any student may take the basic 100 to 200 level courses without any obligation to join the Army ROTC program. The classes are tuition free and class books are provided. Students pay only the fee for the classes. Students may move into the advanced courses in their junior and senior years by making the commitment to the Army ROTC program, said Holter.

Upon graduation, Holter said students are commissioned into three different areas. They can move into active duty, the National Guard or into the Army Reserve. He said all active duty soldiers leave South Dakota but many take military jobs instate with the Guards.

“In the program, we are teaching skills needed in the army. Students learn the basic level tasks that they will need to build upon in their career,” said Holter.

Darci Nelson, a senior chemistry major and military science minor, said that after she graduates from SDSU, she will be commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant.

“The Army ROTC program gives students military leadership skills and helps build character,” said Nelson.

Lt. Col. Holter said SDSU has a long tradition of producing officers for the army. In the past, the program has been ranked eighth of 270 programs and remains in the top 15% of all programs nationwide. The department has seen illustrious alumni doing great things for the army, he said.

Military training has been available since SDSU was founded in 1916. As a land grant university, Holter said military training was a core of SDSU in its founding.

Another ROTC minor offered at SDSU is in the department of Aerospace Studies. This department is associated with the Air Force rather than the Army.

There are currently 65 students that have aerospace studies as a minor, which is significantly less than the number of military science minors. This program teaches students about various leadership topics, such as military ethics and motivational techniques. Maj. Chris Trotter, of the Aerospace Studies Department said that the program provides students with training that is more specific in terms of their career.

“Hopefully students gain a better understanding of roles in the military in general … and pick up leadership skills,” Trotter said.

Much like the Army ROTC program, the Air Force ROTC program has watched some alumni work their way up to powerful positions in their careers. Former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle is a graduate of the program.

The requirements to graduate with a minor in aerospace studies include taking the 16 credits offered through the department over four years.

After graduating with a minor in this program, graduates must work full-time in the Air Force for four years. Pilots must dedicate ten years to the Air Force. However, there are some exceptions to the rules. In some special instances, graduates are allowed to join the Air Guard instead.

Junior Chris Nedved is an aviation major and aerospace studies minor. After he graduates, he says he plans on being commissioned into the Air Force. “Hopefully I receive a pilot slot,” said Nedved. Pilots compete for a limited number of openings and selective boards choose who is eligible to become a pilot.

While students gain knowledge of the military through this program, they are not ranked any higher when they enter the Air Force. They are commissioned as second lieutenants.

There are others ways to be commissioned into the Air Force, but Trotter said that SDSU’s program has a hands-on approach to teaching skills that students will need in military careers.