Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 13, 2013

Soldiering on

MSU's Army ROTC program gets a two-year extension

The Independent

ASHLAND — With the prospect of Morehead State University losing its Army ROTC program  that has been offered by the university for 45 years, MSU officials appealed to the politically powerful to help save the program that has not only trained generations of young Army officers but has helped many from families of modest means pay for their college education.

The combined efforts of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican Rand Paul, who is eying a run for U.S. president in 2016, U.S. Rep.  Hal Rogers, chairman of the powerful House budget committee, Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat in the midst of his second and final term as the state’s chief executive, and others worked. The Army has agreed  to allow MSU’s ROTC program to stay open for another two years. However, in agreeing to the extension, the Army made it clear it expects Morehead State to use the two years to improve its officer production rates.

MSU President Dr. Wayne Andrews thanked the state’s top elected leaders for uniting behind saving ROTC on the campus in Morehead. “MSU’s program performs at a very high level,”Andrews said. “ROTC is an integral part of the university and we are delighted about the decision to continue the program.”

In late August, McConnell was contacted by Andrews asking for his assistance in helping keep the ROTC program. McConnell, the Republican leader in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, wrote a letter to the Army expressing concerns raised by MSU regarding reports the Army may be considering closing its ROTC program. McConnell also recognized the achievements of the MSU cadets and the program’s importance to the community. The MSU cadets were ranked first in 2011 in the Army Cadet Command’s national Order of Merit list. McConnell also said the graduating class is scheduled to be MSU’s largest commissioning class since 1985 and MSU anticipates continued program growth in the coming years.

MSU’s Eagle Battalion was activated Jan. 1, 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War when other colleges and universities were discussing closing their military programs, which more than a few did. Just a little more than two years later, the Air Force ROTC building at the University of Kentucky in Lexington was destroyed by fire during an anti-war demonstration sparked by the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio by National Guardsmen. The building burned on May 7, 1970, just four days after the Kent State deaths.

Despite the unpopularity of ROTC at UK and many other schools, then-MSU President Adron Doran was adamant MSU remain committed to keeping the Army ROTC program at the school.

Its rather controversial beginning notwithstanding, MSU’s ROTC program has grown steadily for 45 years. Over the years, more than 600 Army officers have been commissioned through MSU’s ROTC program.

MSU’s program also has gained a national reputation for excellence with a number of cadets highly ranked according to the “National Order of Merit” list. For example, in 2006-07, MSU Cadet Shannon Niki Martin was ranked third out of 3,806 cadets from 272 universities across the nation. In 2010-11, MSU Cadet Commander Wesley Tudor was ranked number one out of 5,342 cadets from 272 universities across the nation.

Why would the Army even consider dropping an ROTC program with such a record of excellence? One reason may be because the sequester that automatically took affect when Congress could not agree to new spending cuts has ordered steep cuts in military spending that has the U.S. Department of Defense looking for ways to cut spending. Fortunately,  those cuts in  military spending won’t bring about the elimination of the Army ROTC program at Morehead State for at least another two years. It now is up to those involved with ROTC to use the extra time they have been given to make a strong program even stronger.