Golden Eagle Battalion closure could affect cadets’ futures

Cadets of the Golden Eagle Battalion are already facing the effects of the Army’s Oct. 2 announcement to close Tech’s ROTC program by the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.

While the majority of current juniors and seniors will be able to complete the program, it is the freshmen and sophomores who have been affected the most.  Freshman cadet Ellen Shultz, an ROTC scholarship recipient, expressed the reaction of both herself and her parents to the news. “I think we all kind of felt a sense of irony because I went through a lot to get here,” Shultz said. “They didn’t want to accept my medical stuff because I had an allergy. I had like five different doctor appointments, tests, letters and things I had to get.”

The Army is providing assistance to cadets in closing programs, encouraging them to transfer schools to complete the remainder of their training or cross-enroll within schools with ROTC programs nearby. Some cadets have the option to opt out of their contracts completely. Shultz has decided to apply for Vanderbilt University to complete her training. “It was kind of my dream school in high school and I got rejected last year. So I’m getting another shot at it,” she said.

Shultz is still considering her career options but hopes to serve on active duty overseas in the future. Michael Aliff, a sophomore cadet enlisted in the Army National Guard, expected to contract with ROTC after returning from basic training in August. “I was really speechless,” Aliff said. “I enlisted just for this ROTC program. I left for basic. I come back expecting to contract next semester. But now I can’t. So I’m transferring.”

Despite the sudden decision, both Shultz and Aliff willingly continue to participate in the training and support the program’s events. “I’m not mad about it because it’s the Army,” Aliff said. “It is what it is. I’m going to finish out strong. You can’t be upset because something didn’t happen your way. You’ve just got to drive on.”

He plans to transfer next semester to UT-Chattanooga and pursue a career as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard upon graduation.

Freshman and sophomore enrollment in the program is expected to drop at least by half next semester.  The current junior cadets stand to lose opportunities to lead and mentor underclassmen as they become seniors during the Fall 2014 semester-when the freshman, sophomore and junior classes will be completely removed.  “I don’t get the same experience as the other seniors before me,” junior cadet Jesse Cotton said. “That’s the main thing for me to learn is how to lead. That’s what officers do-they lead people. Without any people below you, you’re not really learning how to lead anybody.”

Cotton also expressed looking forward to alternative training that next year’s seniors will possibly receive, such as field training with nearby Army units from Fort Campbell, KY and visits to local battlefields for historical value and battle analysis.  He hopes to commission as an engineer officer in the Army National Guard after graduation.

With the guidance of the ROTC instructors as well as support from the school administration, friends and family, 17 remaining juniors and seniors are scheduled to commission as second lieutenants within the timeframe of the closing.