Campus Army ROTC Program Attracting New Cadets

November 05, 2008

Campus_Army_ROTC Saint Leo University has a revitalized U.S. Army ROTC program on its main campus this academic year.

For the first time in five years, SLU has an officer assigned to work at our main campus full-time directing the ROTC program: U.S. Army Major Stephen T. Wills. In past years, officers worked at Saint Leo for only part of the week, as they were also assigned duties elsewhere in the region. Maj. Wills’ presence full-time on campus has already raised the visibility of the ROTC program and increased the number of students currently enrolled to 12, with more committed to joining next semester. That compares with four students last year.

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) gives college students an opportunity to learn discipline and leadership skills as well as military science. College scholarships for tuition, room and board, books and fees are available in exchange for a commitment to eight years of service in the active Army, the Army Reserves or National Guard. Upon graduation, the student is appointed to the rank of second lieutenant.

Freshmen and sophomores can enroll in the program even if they aren’t yet sure they want a military-college career, Maj. Wills says. That gives the men and women two years of experience with coursework and field work before they have to commit to a contract with the Army.

"It’s not for everyone," Maj. Wills adds. "It takes a special type of individual to lead soldiers, one who is intelligent, motivated and disciplined. The Army needs scholars, athletes and leaders."

Patriotism, desire to serve, and self-discipline are essential traits. Even in the freshmen and sophomore years, cadets are spending up to 10 hours a week on their military responsibilities, which include coursework, leadership laboratories and physical training.

Some new cadets are recruited specifically because they see other students on campus pursuing this path and developing leadership skills, said Maj. Wills, who also serves as assistant professor of military science at SLU.

"It looks like the word is getting out, and I’m excited that I have the opportunity to coach, teach, mentor and train our future leaders. There is huge potential for the ROTC program at Saint Leo."

Cadets from Saint Leo also train with fellow cadets every Thursday from the Suncoast Battalion, which is based at the University of South Florida in Tampa and draws more than 150 students from five other universities and colleges in the area.

The Saint Leo ROTC cadets will be participating in the Nov. 11 Veterans Day observance at 11 a.m. on the main campus.

Maj. Wills can be reached at (352) 588-8685 or at stephen.wills@saintleo.edu.