The Daily Gamecock

USC Army ROTC expanding its ranks

ROTC cadets participate in training drills.
ROTC cadets participate in training drills.

With 200-percent enrollment increase, program is among nation’s fastest growing


USC’s Army ROTC program has grown more than threefold in enrollment in recent years and now ranks as the third-fastest growing program in the nation.

Enrollment across all USC-affiliated campuses has risen from 73 student cadets in the 2005-06 school year to 231 in the current year, including 120 cadets at USC, according to battalion commander and military science department chair Lt. Col. John D. Wright. 

Benedict College, Morris College, Francis Marion University and Coastal Carolina University are all affiliate programs of USC Army ROTC.

Wright attributes the more than 200 percent increase in overall program enrollment in the past seven years to a strategy of “quality recruiting quality,” with leaders within the program recruiting and training future leaders.

“We have great cadets that are proven leaders on campus and in the community,” Wright said. And when recruits see that leadership, he said, they “are drawn to be part of a high-functioning organization that is filled with individuals that want to serve a higher calling.”

That draw is key to incoming cadets, who, as graduating seniors who complete the program, are commissioned as Army 2nd lieutenants. The program ranks eighth nationally in increase of commissioning officers in the past five years, Wright said.

Cadet battalion commander Jerry Hinton, a fourth-year accounting student, said he was looking for “something that would be different” in his college experience and development as a leader when he joined Army ROTC.

“I have done and get to do a lot of things that most college students wouldn’t get to do,” said Hinton, who had enlisted in the Army National Guard and completed basic and advanced training before enrolling at USC.

Indeed, the Army ROTC cadet experience is unlike the typical college career. In addition to their regular academic loads, cadets must take an additional military science class each semester, participate in a leadership lab once a week, conduct at least one weekend-long field training exercise per semester and conduct organized physical training three days a week from 6 to 7 a.m.

Balancing responsibilities and managing their time and priorities can be a challenge for some cadets, but the ROTC program is designed to build students’ confidence and ease their transition into eventual leadership roles, Hinton said.

“You definitely get a lot of discipline and a sense of responsibility. Everything you do in the military is based around discipline,” Hinton said.

Wright said that in his experience, it is the busiest students who perform best. He said the reward of the discipline of the Army ROTC program has benefits not only at the university, but during their service later on.

“The biggest compliment that we can receive here is when one of our former cadets returns and tells us that the training that they received here at USC placed them ahead of their peers in the Army,” Wright said. “I’m proud to say that we hear that quite often.”