ROTC sees upswing in recruitment
The UH Reserve Officers Training Corps continues to set goals for future growth despite evaluations from the Government Accountability Office, which is attempting to determine whether similar programs across the country are subject to budget cuts as part of the recent military drawdown.
UH’s battalion has seen a 66 percent rise in recruits and a 300 percent increase in scholarships offered since August 2012. Most UH Army ROTC candidates are students of the school; other battalion cadets attend local universities.
Lt. Col. Michael J. Smith, battalion commander and professor of military science, said he expects the program to grow to at least 200 students.
“We hope to provide additional scholarship funding to recruits and retain quality candidates for officer training while earning a college degree,” Smith said in an email. “Currently, we have 124 cadets and hope to grow to between 200 and 225 cadets.”
Of those cadets currently enrolled, 106 are either officially contracted or working toward a contract with the U.S. Army to become commissioned officers upon graduation. Fifteen commissioned officers are on track to graduate this year, but Smith’s projections have the number of officers more than doubling by 2017.
“UH has been designated by the U.S. Army Cadet Command as a growth program,” Smith said in a UH news release. “This simply means UH Army ROTC will receive additional campus-based scholarships to incentivize enrollment into ROTC. The scholarships pay for full tuition and fees, $1,200 per year for books and monthly tax-free stipend of $300 to $500 per month the student is enrolled.”
The recent military drawdown, in response to the attempt to return troops home from wars in the Middle East, may have little effect on the efforts of Smith and his battalion cadre, who train cadets in many different subjects. The program includes tactics, land navigation, leadership training and other physical training.
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences dean John Roberts said in the news release that he hopes the drawdown will not affect the progress of UH’s program.
“The reduction in military personnel is understandable with the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan,” Roberts said. “However, I am hopeful it will not have a dramatic impact on productive ROTC programs, such as the one at the University of Houston.”
While UH has a diverse campus, the ROTC program is diverse as well. Its demographic profile, which creates a diverse group of officers, sets it apart from other campus-based programs.
Smith said that programs like UH’s provide nearly 78 percent of new Army officers needed each year. ROTC programs are critical in meeting that need. It is uncertain what impact the GAO evaluation or Pentagon budget cuts will have on the program, but the goal is to keep progressing and continue to produce graduates who are ready to serve.
“The best way to ensure we do not become a victim of the report is to continue recruiting, retaining and commissioning quality college students to the officer ranks of our Army,” Smith said.