College’s ROTC develops character, leaders dedicated to serving nation
By Nikki Gyftopoulos
This year not only marks Providence College’s centennial but also the 65th anniversary of the Army ROTC Program at the College. Col. Roy P. Moss oversaw the official launch of the College’s ROTC unit within the Department of Military Science on Sept. 19, 1951, with 512 cadets enrolled. Since then, more than 1,900 Army officers have been commissioned through the ROTC Program at PC.
Over the decades, events and circumstances nationally have caused fluctuation in the ROTC enrollment. Before 1957, ROTC was required for all first-year and sophomore students at PC except those physically unable or in pre-ecclesiastical studies. Public opinion of military service changed between the late 1960s and early 1970s and, as a result, enrollment decreased sharply. Women were invited to enroll in ROTC beginning in 1973, and this helped revive the program’s enrollment. Today, about 10 percent of the College’s ROTC cadets are women.
The ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 granted eligibility in PC’s ROTC Program to students elsewhere if their academic institution did not offer a program. As of fall 2016, 90 ROTC cadets were enrolled, 53 of whom were PC undergraduates. The remainder study at area colleges including Brown University, Bryant University, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island College, and Community College of Rhode Island. At the end of the 2016-17 academic year, the program expects to commission 14 cadets, nine of whom attend PC.
The ROTC Program allows students to bridge the gap between academics and the military by having one foot in the classroom and one foot in military training. ROTC, including PC’s Patriot Battalion, is dedicated to recruiting, training, and developing leaders of character to serve the nation as commissioned officers in the active U.S. Army, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. More generally, the program is focused on motivating young people to be better citizens committed to life-long service in the community.
Lt. Col. Christopher Wingate, PC professor of military science and director of the ROTC Patriot Battalion, stressed that academics are always the first priority and that the ROTC curriculum adds value and hands-on experience to the students’ education.
“Our mission as the Providence College ROTC is to select and develop young men and women into strong and confident leaders committed to the idea of honorable service to their communities and to our country. We are especially focused on ensuring our future leaders understand the transformative power of strong character when combined with committed leadership and courageous teamwork,” explained Wingate.
The structure of the program is challenging and rewarding for the cadets, according to students. “Being a participant in ROTC, I do physical fitness three mornings every week. And while many of my friends scoff at this, it has the benefit of getting me to bed earlier, getting some exercise, and bonding with the other cadets,” said Albert Scialo ’16, a recent member of the program.
The cadets are expected to hold a high standard of integrity in all aspects of campus life, said Scialo. “People look at you like you are a leader, which in many ways, is exactly what being a cadet is all about,” he said.
There are several requirements for cadets in order to earn a commission from the ROTC Program. Cadets must pass PC’s military science curriculum, complete a college military history course. and graduate from college. They also must pass a 30-day leadership assessment and development course after their junior year. This summer program, held at Fort Knox, Ky., is a fully-paid experience and allows students to connect with other cadets from all over the nation. Cadets also must be declared medically fit for Army duty by a board of military doctors and pass a physical fitness test consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile timed run.
Not all ROTC cadets who commission from PC pursue a lifetime career in the service. Many, like Capt. John Lee Dumas ’02, follow a different path after their years of active duty, but they apply the skills and values learned in the ROTC Program to all of their endeavors. In 2012, Dumas launched EOFire (Entrepreneur On Fire), a podcast that spotlights successful entrepreneurs.
“My ‘aha’ moment of 2012 ignited a spark … and my ROTC training at Providence College fanned that spark into a fire that’s resulted in EOFire receiving over 1.4 million listens every month,” said Dumas.
The PC ROTC Program was recognized in 1996 as one of the top ROTC programs in New England and New York. The College has a strong reputation of commissioning able and confident men and women of strong character, who go on to have success in and out of the military.