February 12, 2007

ROTC Recruiters Face Tough Task

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Lieutenant Colonel Brian Page, the ranking officer in Army ROTC at Cornell, said that young recruiters like Joshua Van Buskirk ’06 are especially important given the current national climate. Page claims he has been fighting a war against disinformation since he arrived at Cornell last May. Facing daily news reports of an embattled administration and an increasingly unpopular war, military recruiters at Cornell and across the country are fighting an uphill battle to meet quotas.

“We’ve changed our approach to dealing with students,” Page said.

The Army ROTC program at Cornell is receiving three additional staff members. While this will increase Army ROTC’s capacity, Page maintained that he was not under any pressure from Army headquarters to raise enrollment. Instead, Page connected the recent developments to Cornell’s land grant mission and motto of any person, any study.

“Cornell has a long, proud tradition of producing military officers,” he said.

Second Lieutenant Van Buskirk gave three reasons to join the Army ROTC. First, there are the full scholarships; second, there is leadership training; third, there is the desire to serve one’s country.

“If I’m not willing to serve my country, then who is going to do it?” asked Van Buskirk. “Somebody less qualified,” he said.

Van Buskirk started serving as a recruiter at Cornell in January. He has been speaking to organizations and classes and tabling around campus to encourage students to consider the Army ROTC program which enables college students, in exchange for a full government scholarship, to train and commit to a four-year stint as a military officer. As a recent Cornell graduate, Van Buskirk thinks that he is in a good position to connect with students.
[img_assist|nid=21288|title=About face.|desc=Members of the Cornell ROTC program change the guard in Barton Hall. ROTC recruiters have recently stepped up their efforts to gain more members.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=81]
“I know a lot about Cornell students,” he said.

While on the Engineering Quad in uniform on one of his first days at Cornell, Page said he overheard one student say to another, “See? I told there was ROTC here.” Page took this as a call to increase education about ROTC on campus.

While students’ awareness of ROTC may be lacking, Page said that the Army ROTC excels in other areas.“Right now we have a good program and a good relationship with Cornell,” he said.

Apparently, the U.S. Army shares Page’s optimism, as it allocated an estimated $1.4 million to the program to increase four-year scholarships.
“They believe we can commission more officers,” Page said.

Carolyn Evans ’10 became a part of that tradition last fall as she joined the College of Engineering with a four year scholarship from Army ROTC, financial assistance she said was crucial to her being able to attend Cornell.

“I wouldn’t have been able to come without it,” she said.

So far she said has enjoyed the program, even the 6 a.m. workouts five days a week during the first few months, which she says brought the group together.

“We’re all pretty close,” she said.

After graduation, Evans is considering working in military intelligence or engineering for her four years as an active soldier and her four years in reserve.