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Harvard prepares for Army ROTC

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday, Harvard University welcomed Army ROTC back to campus. The program first came to the University in 1916, but was closed in 1971 during the Vietnam War-era protests. After Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, Harvard brought Navy ROTC to campus last year–but, as the Harvard Crimson reports, “cadets in that program still must travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take courses.”

At the ceremony, Lt. Col. Timothy J. Hall, the professor of military science at MIT, outlined his vision for Harvard’s new program:

For far too long, the issue of ROTC at Harvard has been politicized.  Many people forget that at its core ROTC is about people embarking on a lifetime of public service, in our case military service. I’ve had the privilege of talking with Larry Bacow at the Graduate School of Education many times and he routinely states his belief that military service is the highest form of public service. I believe in this too. In the years since 1989, the Paul Revere Battalion quietly commissioned 88 Second Lieutenants from Harvard in the Army alone; this number is on par with our host, MIT.  Since 2009, we’ve commissioned 13 second lieutenants, and we will commission 2 more this year.  Of these 13 commissioned, there was one Rhodes Scholar, two Gates-Cambridge Scholars, one Fulbright Scholar, one future Army doctor, two future Army attorneys, and numerous others with significant awards; some of these graduates are serving in Afghanistan as we speak.  Our students have quietly built a record of which Harvard is proud. I am proud of how Harvard has cared for them as well. Our current Army Cadets, all six of them, are truly magnificent people.  They are dedicated to both Harvard and Army ROTC.  I am proud of them all.  The pledge of the Paul Revere Battalion and my personal pledge to Harvard is to care for and nurture them, and to provide them the best leadership education possible so they will one day represent Harvard with distinction in the Army and in civil life.

Because Cadets are the core of any ROTC unit, I will do all I can to ensure we have a vibrant program that includes as many Harvard students as possible. Shortly after my arrival in 2008, I heard President Faust state at the 2008 ROTC Commissioning Ceremony, “I wish that there were more of you,” meaning more Cadets.  I share this desire with her and I will do what I can to try to make this a reality.  During my time in the Paul Revere Battalion, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to do this.  In my discussions with a 2011 alumnus, Second Lieutenant Chris Higgins, he helped me realize the intensity of the competition among Harvard students and the desire for new challenges.  When I put this in context with many conversations we’ve had with Harvard students interested in ROTC, many of whom stated words to the effect of, “I would do ROTC if it were on campus[,]”  I realized that this Harvard-Army ROTC partnership agreement gives us a tremendous opportunity.  Today, I want to issue a challenge to Harvard students and to future Harvard students.  Come and try out for our team; it is competitive and challenging to be a leader in the Army.  Any of our students can tell you about the challenges they face in ROTC and the tremendous degree of fulfillment they get. Our graduates will tell you both the challenges and the tremendous rewards of leading America’s young men and women. To help your decision if you are on the fence, I have two announcements I would like to make. Starting immediately, we will conduct physical training once per week on Harvard’s campus.  Additionally, starting in Fall 2012, we will offer our freshmen courses on Harvard’s campus on a pilot basis, in addition to our offerings at MIT and our North Shore campuses, to determine if there is sufficient student interest to justify further offerings of courses.  It is also my intent to conduct larger leadership training events at Harvard that include the entire Paul Revere Battalion; I will work to identify the best events and will work these closer with Harvard College in the months ahead.  I intend for Army ROTC to be more than simply an office at Harvard; my vision is that Army ROTC will be an integral part of the Harvard community as our Harvard students are fully integrated members of the Paul Revere Battalion.”

Harvard’s ceremony comes at the same time that Yale University is preparing to establish both Air Force and Navy ROTC units on campus this fall. Yesterday, Yale News ran a Q&A with Lt. Col. Theodore G. Weibel, commander of the Yale AFROTC detachment. As we noted in December, progress is occurring, slowly but surely.