A Century of Service
PHOTO: COURTESY OF HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, VIRGINIA TECH
In September, Virginia Tech began a several-month-long commemoration of the centennial of its Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program with a cake-cutting event held for alumni on Military Appreciation Day and Corps Homecoming. Another centennial celebration is planned for January 2017.
The university was one of the first to form an Army ROTC program, so its centennial follows that of the national program by just a few months.
Since 1916, the ROTC’s charge has been to select and commission officers into the U.S. Army and to provide leadership development opportunities. When the university opened as the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1872, all 132 students were cadets organized into a battalion of two companies. Participation in the Corps of Cadets would continue to be mandatory until 1964.
As World War I approached, President Woodrow Wilson established the national ROTC as part of the National Defense Act of 1916.
Although military training had taken place in civilian colleges and universities as early as 1819, the signing of the act brought the training under a single, federally controlled entity.
The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved the university’s first ROTC program on November 23, 1916. Virginia Tech’s Army ROTC received its federal charter less than a month later, on December 21. The ROTC Infantry unit was established January 5, 1917, followed shortly by Engineer and Coast Artillery.
The Air Force ROTC started in 1946. The Naval ROTC, which includes the Marine Corps, began in 1983.
“The ability of the Army to deploy anywhere to assist with humanitarian, peacekeeping, and combat missions—often all at the same time—is one of the reasons that inspired me to pursue this path,” says Cadet Greg Milhiser ’17, an international studies major. “The most significant aspect of my major that will help me as an Army officer is the exposure to global issues and possible steps toward finding a solution to those issues. Modern Army officers need to be able to understand the global community and the issues facing it currently.”