Posted on May 15, 2024
Last Wednesday at our noon meeting we were privileged to host both commanders of the CSU/UNC ROTC programs - Colonel Gregg Johnson (USAF) and Lieutenant Colonel Matt Tillman (USA) for a refresher on these outstanding, award-winning Army and Air Force ROTC Programs. Our speakers were introduced by recently retired Colonel Kip Turain (former Commander, CSU ROTC USAF).
Col Johnson spoke first. He praised the excellent opportunity he has had with his fellow CSU graduate LTC Tillman working synergistically to fulfill the mission to produce outstanding military leader graduates in military science at CSU and UNC. He also thanked our club for our long-term commitment honoring the Cadet of the Month. Our speakers’ mission today was to educate us (the public) about what is ROTC, what the faculty does with these CSU students, what is the mission and finally how does this benefit our community? 
ROTC is the largest source of commissioning for our armed forces (compared to the other 2 sources – the military academies and officer training school).  Graduates of ROTC are immediately placed in leadership positions over enlisted and noncommissioned members, ultimately becoming leaders in our communities when they leave the military.
LTC Tillman next highlighted the history and tradition of excellence of ROTC at CSU (141st year). The Morrill Act (1862) established the land grant university with 3 requirements - mechanical, agricultural, and military training. Military training began in 1883 at CSU. In 1916 ROTC was started at CSU with the requirement that ROTC students not be pulled to military service during their 4 years of training. The 1929 Military Science building has housed several notable graduates - 2 Four-star generals including Lewis William Walt who was a recipient of the Navy Cross, 2 Vietnam Medal of Honor winners, and more recently, Debra Williams, the first female USAF fighter pilot from CSU and Gen James Dickinson the first USSPACECOM commander.
How does the Army ROTC produce its leaders? For at least 8 semesters military science students maintain academic rigor (students come from all of CSU’s colleges), physical development and education (how to maintain and teach physical fitness) and leader development. One difference of the USA program is they supply officers to the Army National Guard and the USA Reserve.
Col Johnson returned to the mic and praised his cadre of 8 as they guided the students through ethical and character development as a basis for people and organizational leadership. During their training the cadre encourages students to be curious about what is happening in the world (e.g. Ukraine) as they will support military strategy and ultimately the president’s national security objectives. The ROTC upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) actually run the battalion and the cadet wing under the guidance of the cadre as they fail forward in their leadership development. The USAF additionally has a guardian mission, and some graduates will choose to be commissioned in the Space Force.
Finally, why should we care and why should high school students enter these programs? In addition to the leadership training there are financial incentives. Eighty percent of ROTC members will be on full scholarship. Annual salary after graduation is $60,000. Three boards meet throughout the year to choose high school scholarship recipients. There are great benefits and opportunities but the request today is for community leaders like Rotary to help get the word out because most folks don’t know what’s available. The USAF also holds 3 boards but in January there is a board specifically for the Space Force. It helps to apply early. Thirteen to forty talented high school students are interviewed each year.
The contact numbers are 970.491.1640 on the USA side and 970.491.4463 for the USAF (or go to the web site). 
There was time for several questions.
We thank these two busy leaders for spending time and sharing information which we can use to help recruitment and better understand our selected Cadets of the Month. To review some of the many accomplishments, awards, and positions of our two speakers please see the bio links provided in last week’s Rotogear.