ROTC downsizing, hopes to keep presence on campus

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As the Reserve Officers Training Course program at Dixie State University continues to downsize, hopes are high within the program to “unman” the program rather than shut it down completely, ROTC officials said. 

The ROTC program will either become an unmanned program or cease to exist at DSU by the end of spring 2017.

An “unmanned” program would mean the ROTC program would continue to exist at DSU without military administration. If unmanned, the program would work with Southern Utah University to offer students at DSU military classes and training. 

Maj. Justin Smith, assistant professor of ROTC and military science at DSU, said it is unfortunate timing now that the program is starting to become well established.

“It’s terrible timing, yet it is an understandable thing the (Utah) National Guard has to do,” Smith said. 

Smith said the reason DSU’s ROTC has been downsizing is because the whole army is downsizing, which  has historically happened after major conflicts. 

Smith said one reason the DSU program is being downsized is because it is the newest company in the Cougar Battalion, which includes Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and SUU. But the program didn’t really get the chance to build, he said.  

“The program right now has great potential to be one of the best programs around,” Smith said.

Smith said the reason for this is because the numbers of cadets being commissioned has exceeded those of disenrollment over the last couple of years. 

Lt. Col. Chanda Mofu, professor of military science at BYU, said Smith and Sergeant First Class Jeremy Later’s, assistant professor in the ROTC and military science, work with the ROTC program has been “phenomenal” in the last two years.

“[The growth] has been an amazing turn around for the program,” Mofu said.

Unfortunately, the Utah National Guard cannot man DSU after 2017, which is why it is looking to utilize SUU to continue with an unmanned affiliate, Smith said.

The cadres at SUU reflect the same quality of those at DSU, and there is already support between the two programs, Mofu said.

Smith said he knows the ROTC program at SUU will support the unmanned program. However, he saidDSU administrators are still discussing  a few concerns with ROTC officials about the transition, he said. 

Jyl Hall, public relations and publications coordinator, said DSU administration is sad to see the ROTC program go due to military funding.          

She said the administration supports the idea of continuing to provide military training to students through SUU, but no official decision has been made, she said.

“We are still figuring out all the details and logistics of this opportunity before we can make a decision,” Hall said. 

Smith said ROTC officials are looking to provide transportation for the cadets to SUU to ease some administrators’ concerns.

“[The cadets] have hoped for an [unmanned program] since they could see the writing on the wall,” said Braden White, a junior general education major and a contracted cadet from St. George.

Smith said the desire to be part of the ROTC program is still strong, and several have had lower division classmen express their desire to contract to the ROTC. DSU’s ROTC currently has nine contracted cadets, and Smith said he predicts 15-20 freshmen and sophomores to enroll in the courses in the spring.

Although no further contracts are being offered, all military courses will be available next spring semester and then only upper-division military classes will be offered in fall of 2016 and spring 2017 so contracted cadets can finish required coursework.

Smith said he wants to keep military presence on campus and the opportunity of the ROTC program available to students.

“I cannot say enough for how DSU has supported [the ROTC] as a program,” Smith said.

White said the ROTC program has helped cadets like himself grow and provided opportunity to give back to DSU. He said he hopes the program will still be available to students.

“There is a lot of good people at Dixie, and the ROTC could definitely benefit from the people here,” White said.

Despite the changes the program is going through, the cadets are still working hard in their course training and doing requirements they need to remain part of the ROTC, Smith said.

“We are not taking our foot off the gas pedal at all because of what might happen,” Smith said.