Army ROTC cadets celebrate milestone with Earn Your Boots ceremony
TDECU Stadium came alive when the Houston Battalion Army ROTC program held its annual “Earn Your Boots” ceremony Thursday afternoon, swearing 13 cadets into the Army.
The ROTC program molds young students on campus through leadership and personal development training while also offering benefits to those students who commit to serving in the United States Army upon graduation.
“The actual signing of the contract is just me and the cadet going over the paperwork in my office, after they’ve earned it,” assistant professor of military science Cpt. Troy Yard said. “This ceremony is to celebrate the commitment they’ve made to the United States Army and to (completing) this program.”
Of the 102 cadets in the program, 55 have been contracted by the Army, with the 13 newest receiving their utilities and boots for the first time after pledging an oath before their commanding officers, friends and family.
Benefits for the contracted cadets include merit-based scholarship opportunities, depending on the cadets’ post-graduate obligation with the Army and $300 to $500 in monthly stipends. The number of scholarships are limited.
“You have to uphold a standard of physical fitness, your grades and your behavior with the battalion,” cadet major Trae Rivera said. “You have to show that you want it, be respectful and do what you need to do.”
For the cadets, the “Earn Your Boots” ceremony represents their first step in their military journey.
“They are not kids anymore,” said Army ROTC commander and professor of military science Lt. Col. Neil Chaffee. “They are young men and women about to become second lieutenants and lead America’s sons and daughters. That’s the greatest privilege a leader can have.”
Cadet corporal Jenna Pyland signed her contract with the Army last November but was unable to attend the previous ceremony. She said she was grateful to finally be able to have her moment at this year’s ceremony.
“It means a lot to me and lets me know they didn’t forget about me after a whole year,” Pyland said. “It represents all of the hard work that I’ve put into the program. When I put on this uniform, knowing that I’m trained for something greater than me, it’s going to feel amazing.”
Rivera will graduate next spring, but still remembers his ceremony fondly.
“It was outstanding,” Rivera said. “It’s one of those ‘it’s happening’ sort of moments, very similar to graduating and walking across the stage. It feels just like that, just in a different format. Once you do it, you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”