Making the big decision: UH ROTC cadets swear-in on national television
Sterling Dodd used to play football when was he in junior high. He stopped competing when he came home and his mother — who disliked the sport — asked him, “How was it?”
“I said, ‘Oh my God! It was so hard. I’m so tired,’ and she goes, ‘Well, you can quit.’”
As the business management supply chain sophomore got older, he realized he disliked his decision.
At 18, Dodd joined the United States Army and served six years on the enlisted side as an infantryman. Afterward, he got out and started attending UH.
However, he missed the military life.
On Oct. 2, Dodd, along with 16 other cadets from the Army ROTC Houston Battalion, raised their right hands and recited the enlistment oath in front of thousands of spectators, as well as millions in live television during the Heroes presentation of UH’s football game against Central Florida. The contracting ceremony took place between the first and second quarters of the game.
“I didn’t like the weakness, I didn’t like the fact that I did that, and I kind of regretted it up until the point where I decided I wasn’t going to be like that any more,” Dodd said of his decision from childhood. “So I joined the military and I found that strength that I didn’t have growing up. That discipline.”
He said he still has a laissez faire mentality he inherited from his mother. All while possessing the mental structure, discipline and accountability. These were things instilled in the military.
“So… you can say that I was raised by my parents, by my mother, but I grew up in the military,” Dodd said.
Dodd’s fiancée, hotel and management freshman Kayla Gehrke, is originally from Michigan. Unlike her other comrades –who mostly hail from Texas –her family would not be there in attendance. However, the live taping worked out for her and her family, who would be watching from up north.
“My mom (was) real excited about that,” Gehrke said. “So that’s nice.”
Gehrke’s is used to the military life.
“I’ve lived on a military base for five years so I’m familiar with the customs,” Gehrke said. “It’s something good to help keep you organize.”
In addition, Gehrke has a four-year scholarship, paying her as she attends school. She and a few of the other cadets will have to serve for eight years. As for serving the full 20 years — which is the retirement time in the military — she wants to wait and see how her time in the service goes.
“If it doesn’t, it’s only one weekend a month, a couple of weeks during the summer,” Gherke said. “It doesn’t really impose on your life too much. But it would be nice to maintain that constant for 20 years, and also have the benefit later.”
Gherke adds that just like ROTC, they will have to give up some of their time now, but the benefit is graduating with no debt.
“When I look at my fellow college mates, I don’t see them as comrades. I see them as competition, and I see them as people I want to crush. That’s my competitive side. But here, all I want to do is pull these guys up with me.”
Sterling Dodd, business management supply chain sophomore
“So it’s worth the pay-off eventually,” Gehrke said. “I’m familiar with that type of system, I think it’ll workout.”
Organization leadership and supervision sophomore David Albert said he feels grateful about contracting.
“I feel a lot of pride and honor to be serving for the United States military,” Albert said. “I just want to go far as being an officer and serving my country.”
Despite the current world events such as ISIS in the media, Albert said that things in life are going to happen, regardless if they help or not.
“I can’t just let things happen in the world without me feeling affected,” Albert said. “I want to change the world, and I feel this will help me do that.”
Criminal justice junior Christopher Buys said that the Army is a lot like normal life, but with more structure. He also said that almost every job that exists in the civilian world also exist in the Army. In addition to the jobs, Buys said the Army will teach about leadership.
“Look in the course catalog and see if there’s a class on that,” Buys said. “Management is not leadership. Leadership is about empowering others to do great things. Management is more about efficiency with goods and services and less about the people.”
Dodd said that the Army is a lot more than what people assume.
“Everyone seems to think that we’re just a bunch of angry grunts running around with guns and we’re just constantly fighting each other in some kind of octagon and we’re not exactly polishing our skills,” Dodd said. “But in reality, we are motivated, intelligent, decisive, culturally aware individuals. Not only that, some of the most intelligent, responsible people I know are all prior military. And everyone knows that, but at the same time it’s kind of a general culture of the military that no one will ever understand.”
Dodd adds that he has been trying to put his finger on what that is.
“I think it is how we perceived each other in the military,” Dodd said. “Because when I look at my fellow college mates, I don’t see them as comrades. I see them as competition, and I see them as people I want to crush; that’s my competitive side. But here (ROTC), all I want to do is pull these guys up with me. Like I want to lift them as I lift me, help them and I know that they would do the same for me. It’s a completely different lens to look through.”
For more information about the Army ROTC program, call (713) 743-3875 or email at [email protected]