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ROTC History

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HISTORY OF ARMY ROTC AND THE MOHAWK BATTALION

There has long been a duality in the American military tradition, with both citizen-soldiers and military professionals playing prominent roles in all of America's wars.  For most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, America's small, professional Regular Army was supplemented during times of crisis by large numbers of state militia and other volunteer forces.

This dual system worked well until the United States had to mobilize a large army for the American Civil War.  The United States Military Academy at West Point, the nation's traditional source for army officers, could not produce enough officer to lead the huge force that was fielded during the 1860's.  Many unskilled volunteers and militia officers experienced problems in learning to become effective military leaders virtually overnight.  To remedy this situations the Land-Grant Act of 1862 (also known as the Morrell Act) gave states federal land to raise capital and establish colleges that would teach agriculture, science, and military tactics.  This program was intended to produce a large pool of reserve officers for the United States Army.

The programs set up under the Morrell Act lacked the quality and uniformity to consistently supply the military with competent reserve officers.  In the face of looming American involvement in World War I, the National Defense Act of 1916 included a provision that set up the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).  ROTC's inception occurred too late to produce large numbers of officers for World War I, but by 1928 there were ROTC programs at 325 schools across the nation.  When America began to mobilize for World War II in 1940, ROTC had trained a force of reserve officers numbering in excess of 100,000.

After World War II it became apparent that the United States would always have to be ready for rapid military expansion, and ROTC became the Army's primary source of officers-for both the Regular Army and the Army's reserve components.  Two major changes in the ROTC program in the late twentieth century transformed the program into its current form.  The ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 authorized financial assistance in the form of scholarships to selected high quality individuals.  The program expansion that started in 1972 authorized women to participate in Army ROTC.

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In 1947, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute(RPI) began an ROTC program affiliated with the Corps of Engineers, Transportation Corps, and Signal Corps.  Siena College inaugurated its ROTC program in September 1950 as a Field Artillery program, teaching associated subjects, which lasted until the fall of 1967 when the program was changed to General Military Science.  The intent of focusing programs on certain branches was to align cadets with branches that closely matched their academic backgrounds, a practice that was discontinued in 1967 allowed ROTC cadets to compete for slots in all of the Army's basic branches.

Army ROTC was mandatory for all freshman and sophomores at Siena College until 1969.  Today ROTC is an elective program open to all qualified students.  In 1981, the State University of New York at Albany (U-Albany) established an extension center of the RPI Army ROTC program to allow students to take ROTC courses on the U-Albany campus.

As part of the Army's downsizing in the early 1990s, Army ROTC was reduced to its current configuration of 270 programs nationwide.  The separate RPI ROTC program was discontinued, and Siena College became the host institution for Army ROTC in the New York Capital District region.  RPI and U-Albany are now part of Cadet Command's partnership program, and the Mohawk Battalion includes cross-enrolled students from more than fifteen other schools.  In 1999, the Mohawk Battalion was ranked 19th-best in the nation.  In October 2000, the Mohawk Battalion Ranger Challenge Team took 3rd Place in the brigade competition among twenty teams.  The Siena College Army ROTC program is currently ranked in the top third of all programs nationwide.  It is the second-largest producers of officers in the northeastern United States among twenty-two programs, commissioning more than twenty lieutenants annually.  In the spring of 2003, Siena College's partnership school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduated the number one Army ROTC cadet in the nation.  The following fall Siena College and the Mohawk Battalion was selected as the #1 large Army ROTC program in the country and #5 overall, out of 270 programs nationwide.  Siena College Army ROTC and the Mohawk Battalion will continue to lead the way in producing quality officers to serve as leaders of character in the United States Army.

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