ROTC: What it takes to be a cadet

Kayla Ebner Photo Editor — My alarm clock goes off at 0500 hours, or 5:00 a.m. It is still dark outside, and fairly cold. I roll out of bed and make the long walk to the Recreation Center where the rest of the group is waiting patiently for the door to be opened. It is time for my first workout with ROTC.

I believe there are many misconceptions about ROTC, and I’m writing this to inform readers that it is much more than just working out. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is an opportunity for young adults to get an invaluable experience while also acquiring a college degree. When enrolled in ROTC, a cadet masters fundamentals, problem solving, and leadership abilities, along with many other skills that are necessary when joining one of our military branches. There is most definitely a physical aspect to this program, but as many people may not know, there is much more to it than push-ups and sit-ups. Each Wednesday, cadets from Roger Williams, as well as Salve Regina, make an hour-long trip to The University Rhode Island for a three-hour class. At Roger Williams there are 14 contracted cadets, 13 male and one female. They must also participate in events like The Crucible, a 24-hour test of endurance, and The Cadet Leadership Course in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Above all, the cadets must learn how to lead, manage their time, and perform as a team with equal respect for each and every person involved. The motto of ROTC is “leadership excellence,” and I certainly saw that in each and every activity I was involved in.

Last week, I participated in the grueling Physical Training part of the ROTC program, which requires a wake up time of 5 a.m., three days a week. Each day started off with a warm-up then followed by a debriefing of what the morning’s workout would consist of. Next, we lifted weights, switching between squatting, benching, deadlifting, and overhead pressing each day. The third part of the conditioning varied every day. On the first day, we completed a circuit for three rounds: 25 push-ups, 15 prisoner squats, and 15 burpees, finished off with a half-mile run.

The fun did not stop there.

The next two days had similar workouts, each one as difficult as the last. Everyday, I witnessed the teamwork and camaraderie that these cadets have for each other. In one exercise, the group split up into pairs and carried each other along the route outside of the Recreational Center. Just when you wanted to give up or stop, there was someone there to push you to the finish line. In the early hours of the morning, it is easy to say you are too tired and hit “snooze” on your alarm. For ROTC, this is not an option. I felt very proud of myself after three days’ worth of early morning workouts. I accomplished more than I ever thought I could. Senior Arnaud Vaganay shared his thoughts on finding motivation to keep going:

“You gotta love what you do. Some part of you has to love getting up early and being pushed mentally and physically, or you aren’t going to be able to do it 24/7 after college.”

Needless to say, by the end of the week, I could barely move an inch without feeling some sort of pain in my body. I learned a great deal about the importance of form as well as pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to get results. The physical component of my ROTC experience was both mentally and physically challenging, however, it did not compare to the engaging experience I got when I sat in on a class at URI.

Stay tuned next issue to discover more about my experience with ROTC.