Three times a week, Zoe Banaag and Spencer Walker wake up for six a.m. physical training.  

By 7 a.m., the training has ended and Banaag and Walker — students in Ohio University’s Reserve Officers' Training Corps — go about their day taking classes.

“I just really like the aspect of being in the military,” Banaag, a freshman studying biological sciences in army ROTC, said. “I feel like ROTC is sort of perfect because you get to experience college and also train to be in the military and also get to be an officer ... that’s really been the pride of it all.”

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OU has two ROTC programs, Army and Air Force, which formed in 1936 and 1948, respectively, according to program websites.

This academic year, OU’s Army ROTC has 115 cadets, while OU’s Air Force ROTC has 35.

“In the past decade we’ve ramped up, fought a war and now we’re kind of coming back down,” John Hansen, recruiting operations officer for Army ROTC, said. “This past year was when they (the army) started saying, ‘All right guys, thanks for your work, you are doing great, but we gotta give everybody a ceiling on the number of people they can actually contract just because looking out over the next few years we’re not going to be able to afford to pay all these lieutenants so you are going to have to manage that a little bit,’ ” Hansen said.

Hansen said the army told OU, along with other colleges around the country, to cap the number of students in ROTC programs because once the students finish school, the army won't be able to pay them all. 

The top 40 percent of cadets nationally get active duty, Hansen said.

“They do that based on order of your merit list that's based on your GPA, physical fitness test scores — there’s some standardized tests that the army makes you take,” Hansen said.

Students apply for ROTC scholarships their senior year of high school and earn either a three- or four-year scholarship, which includes full tuition, fees and monthly stipend of up to $5,000 over 10 months, Hansen said.

"If they got a four-year scholarship, we will contract them day one of their freshman year," Hansen said. "If they are a three-year scholarship we will do it their sophomore year." 

An Army ROTC student who receives an Army ROTC scholarship must agree to an eight-year period of service with the army, according to the Army ROTC website.

Upon finishing Air Force ROTC, contracted cadets accept a commission as second lieutenants in the Air Force, appointed by the President of the United States, according to the Air Force website. The length of the cadets' service time depends on their career.

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One of the main things Walker, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, looked into when applying to colleges was whether the school had Air Force ROTC.

“Going into the Air Force has just been something I’ve always wanted to do with life,” Walker, who has dreams of becoming a combat rescue officer, said. “When we’re growing up, everyone has that special something that interests them and going into the Air Force and serving my country has always been what I’ve wanted to do.” 

Students in ROTC live and eat together, fostering strong fellowship among the cadets, Hansen said. 

“At a campus like this where you get ideologies from across the spectrum and you don’t get that at senior military colleges or West Point," Hansen said. "You get that at a place like this and you get really used to it."

Banaag said it is an “honor” to wear the uniform.

“So many people have died in that uniform, so just being able to wear that is just awesome,” Banaag said.

Juggling school and ROTC can be tricky, Walker and Banaag said, but they have found a way to balance it all.  

“I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it’s tough, but I think if it's something you really want to do, it’s definitely worth it,” Walker said. “It’s very early mornings then with engineering major it’s usually some late nights too. So it’s difficult in that aspect, but I get by.”  

Banaag said she is happy with her ROTC experience so far.

“I’ve liked all the stuff I’ve done because even though some of it gets difficult, it really challenges me and it really pushes my limits,” Banaag said. “I end up doing things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do before. It really pushes the physical, academic and moral aspect and you really have to think about wearing that uniform and representing what that uniforms means.”

@megankhenry

mh573113@ohio.edu

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