This July marks the 65th year of the United States Navy’s relationship with UR. After its predecessor (a “V-12 Unit”) was deemed a success, the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps was founded in 1945. Though the fine men and women join the NROTC for a variety of reasons, ranging from the leadership skills, discipline and scholarship support that they earn, to family tradition within the Navy, they all share the same commitment to serve their country.
Upon joining the NROTC unit at UR – which is referred to as a battalion – students take an oath and are appointed as “midshipmen.” The battalion can also encompass students from St. John Fisher College, Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Brockport. Additionally, current freshmen and sophomores are able to join under the NROTC College Program and can earn a scholarship.
As mentioned above, students join for a variety of reasons. “The reason I joined is because my family has a strong family tradition as my father and grandfather were Marines,” First-Class Midshipman and senior Brett De Maria, from Amsterdam, N.Y., said. “I liked the opportunity to be a Marine Officer and my brother is doing it, as well.”
“Having NROTC pay for school was a big benefit, and, because my father is a firefighter down in New York City, I also joined because of September 11,” First-Class Midshipman and senior Brian Hanson, from Middletown, N.Y., said. “I learned about ROTC through my brother, as well.” Hanson plans to become a naval aviator. He enjoyed his summer cruise (a month-long experience in the Navy that all midshipmen participate in) in San Diego that helped prepare him for his career as an officer.
Leadership is an important aspect of being a part of the unit.
“You get basic leadership skills through everyday activities, planning out training evolutions in preparation for much greater responsibility of becoming an officer, giving you the essentials of leadership,” De Maria said. “It helps midshipmen with time management and the ability to gain confidence of dealing with peers, considering that they will be leading Sailors and Marines one day.”
The NROTC unit convenes many times during the week. Naval science classes are held each Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays (and, if necessary, some Fridays), midshipmen must rise early for physical training, which includes running, swimming and strength training (sit-ups and push-ups). Each semester, they are expected to complete a physical fitness assessment to ensure that their level of fitness meets the Navy’s standards. Additionally, on Wednesdays, midshipmen don their uniforms and participate in Drill, which tests their ability to follow orders and remain in formation. De Maria added that Marine Options also have Drill on Monday and have an extra day of PT on Friday. Our NROTC unit competes against other units across the region in these two fields every semester, specifically in swimming competitions, sprint relays and distance runs for physical fitness, and Drill competitions are carried out for different-sized units (such as squad and platoon sizes).
But NROTC get-togethers are not limited to PT and Drill. Often, recent NROTC grads and others come to speak about their experiences in the Navy. One speaker was Marine Captain Brian Chontosh, a Rochester native who earned the Naval Cross (a rare decoration second only to the Medal of Honor) for his valiant actions during the first days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are also social events during the year, such as the Naval Ball every spring semester.
The culmination of a UR NROTC midshipman’s career is commissioning, which coincides with graduation. At that time, they receive their commissions as naval or Marine Officers (an ensign or second lieutenant, respectively).
After UR, some become “surface warfare officers,” and report to the ship to which they are assigned. Potential naval aviators report to Pensacola, Fla. for flight school. Marine options like De Maria report to The Basic School in Quantico, Va. for further training before they are assigned a specific Military Operational Specialty in the Marine Corps. The Navy permits up to 25 midshipmen per year to attend medical school; UR is lucky to have one such student, First-Class Midshipman senior David Nissan, from Ridgecrest, Calif., who has been accepted to the Weill Medical College at Cornell.
“The thing that attracted me to being a doctor in the military is the diversity,” Nissan said. “I’m looking forward to do something fun, such as serving with Marines, SCUBA diving or flying planes, but I also have the freedom to jump back into research and normal medicine. It is an experience that most physicians are never going to get.”
Students in NROTC are proud to be midshipmen. “I love the identity, and I am proud of being a part of the Navy,” Hanson said. “NROTC has kept me in shape and motivated throughout college and helped me perform at the best of my ability.”
Scott is a member of the class of 2008.