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NMSU military groups anticipate increased enrollment, commission 2nd lieutenants

With a mission to recruit, motivate, train and produce the highest quality second lieutenants for Army and Air Force jobs, the leadership of the two military groups at New Mexico State University has their hands full. Yet, as enrollment numbers for ROTC and Air Force ROTC programs are on the rise, the commanders remain confident about the career success of future soldiers and airmen and women coming out of NMSU.



Cadets march in the New Mexico State University homecoming parade in Las Cruces. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

"Not many programs can guarantee their students a job upon graduating (college). We can," said Lt. Col. Bradley Gavle, professor of military sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences. There are different levels of commitment when signing up for the ROTC programs offering several career paths upon graduation or commissioning, he said.

"We're selling leadership," he said of the 2008 detachment of 102 cadets - a number nearly doubled from the 65 reported last year. Gavle admits he's not sure why this number increased so dramatically in one year but says good news travels fast and the main reason could be "job security" upon graduation. For soldiers, airmen/women, sailors and Marines already serving, getting a university degree is a way to advance their military career, he said.

Leaders report five ROTC cadets have entered the program upon returning from active duty in Afghanistan or Iraq. Four AFROTC cadets have also had prior service experience in Iraq; one served in the Navy. The difference between the "seasoned" and those just out of high school entering college for the first time is apparent for both Groll and Gavle.

"They have a certain level of maturity and have established a trend of military discipline so they may stand out among their peers," Groll said of those coming to college after having done prior service.

Outreach efforts for both military programs to improve recruitment and enrollment numbers throughout the fall semester will continue in the spring. Some previous efforts include presentations to high school guidance counselors, display booths on and off campus, and financial aid college nights, to name a few.

Student cadet commander Justin Kemp, returned from active duty in Afghanistan three years ago, and enrolled in the Green to Gold scholarship program. Green to Gold offers several options for soldiers on active duty to come to college to complete a degree program in two, three or four years. Kemp, who will be commissioning and graduating Dec. 12 and 13, said the leadership skills he learned in his three years in the ROTC program at NMSU were invaluable and he would encourage others to participate in the program if anything to improve upon their leadership skills.

Kemp got to practice leadership of his own in managing the detachment and strengthening connections between a cadre of military leaders, administrative staff and student cadets. "ROTC is a good program with a caring cadre. They focus on the mission of bringing quality officers into the Army," he said.

Air Force ROTC benefited from ROTC Awareness Day held in the fall semester. Lt. Col. Steve Groll said 38 legitimate contacts were obtained specific to Air Force. "These contacts are people who signed up to receive more information about the program. We won't know final numbers until the fall, but it's a good sign to see the interest," Groll said.

The fall 2008 AFROTC enrollment numbers sit at 60 cadets and eight of them are female. Twenty-two are AFROTC scholarship recipients who chose to attend NMSU among over 144 host institutions for detachments across the nation.

"The AFROTC program is special to me because not only am I getting a college education now, but I am also working towards my future," said Courtney Schantz, a freshman Aerospace Engineering major. "Everyday I learn what to expect and what will be expected of me as an officer in the Air Force, and it gets me really excited about serving my country."

Optimism continues to be strong for both military program directors as the recruitment numbers continue to grow. "Being in the military requires a specific calling for a certain individual. It speaks volumes when these kids are representing their country in the Air Force," Groll said.

"I'll never worry that someone won't step up," Gavle said. "To serve your country...it's a powerful thing."

Upcoming commissioning ceremonies in which cadets will become second lieutenants are:

?Dec. 12, Friday: ROTC commissioning ceremony, Corbett Center auditorium at 7 p.m.

?Dec. 13, Saturday: Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony, NMSU Music Recital Hall at 6 p.m.