In today’s post I want to talk about my experience at Clarkson University Army ROTC. I was a cadet there for three semesters from January 1999 to May 2000. I graduated and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in May 2000.
Prior to Clarkson Army ROTC
I enlisted in the Army Reserve in June 1995 as a 71L (Administrative Specialist). In January 1996, I attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After returning home from AIT, I decided I wanted to transition from the Army Reserve to the Active Duty Army.
My first duty assignment was with the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard). During my time there, I got the inspiration to become an Army Officer. I credit much of that decision to several of my officer mentors at that time (CPT Hughes, CPT Agee, CPT Goins and CPT Dickey). They were incredible officers and leaders and I really wanted to be like them.
At the time, I had been taking night and weekend classes at the local community college: Northern Virginia Community College. I completed my two year Associate’s Degree in about a year because I took about 50+ credits worth of CLEP courses. My degree was in General Studies.
Of course, I had to pick a university, so I went to the education center at Fort Myer and talked with one of the education counselors. I asked her about ROTC programs and she gave me a booklet. The booklet had a list of every Army ROTC program in the United States.
Now, you probably won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but it is the truth. I simply opened up the booklet to a random page and put my finger down. My finger landed on Clarkson University.
Up until that time, I had never heard of Clarkson University or their Army ROTC program. I never even researched it. I didn’t know where it was or what it was like. I simply decided that I would attend the Clarkson University Army ROTC program, and that was it. I applied to the program and got accepted. I didn’t apply to any other schools.
To clarify, I was not a student at Clarkson University. They are known as an engineering school and I was a liberal arts major. Therefore, I attended one of the local colleges (SUNY Potsdam in Potsdam, NY) and would complete my ROTC training at Clarkson University.
In December 1998, I was discharged from the Active Duty Army and made my transition up to Potsdam, NY to start my classes for the Spring 1999 semester.
My Story at Clarkson University Army ROTC
I arrived in Potsdam in late December 1998 and found a nice apartment to stay in. I started my classes at SUNY Potsdam and also decided to join a fraternity (Sigma Pi). My first semester in college was a bit rough, as I made my transition from soldier to full-time student. I still got good grades (above a 3.0) but I was partying a lot and just being irresponsible. I hate to say that, but it is the truth.
I have to say that I was very impressed with the Clarkson University Army ROTC program, right from the beginning. They had a great staff, great resources and awesome instructors.
The Professor of Military Science (LTC Gregory) was top notch. The other instructors also went above and beyond to develop the cadets and provided tough, realistic training. We had a demanding physical fitness program in the morning and had “lab” once or twice a week. This is where we trained for the Ranger Challenge and did our basic leadership training.
After my first semester (Spring 1999) I attended the ROTC Leadership Camp at Fort Lewis, Washington. I barely made it through that training because of my bad attitude, but I did make it. When I returned home from summer camp my instructors told me that I would need to “man up” and take my studies more seriously. Fortunately, I listened.
During my senior year, my grades got better and I became a better student. Looking back, I was definitely near the bottom of the barrel among my peer cadets. We had some great cadets who were much more responsible and were much better leaders than I was. I guess I was just a late bloomer. Fortunately, the ROTC Cadre saw my potential and worked with me to the best of their ability.
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- Army JROTC: What it is and How it Works
In May 2000, I earned my commission as a brand new Second Lieutenant in the Army Quartermaster Corps. That was one of the proudest moments of my life! My parents attended the graduation and pinned my bars and my National Guard First Sergeant got my first salute. From there I shipped off and served my time honorably in the Active Duty Army.
I’d like to chime in and say that during my Clarkson University Army ROTC experience, I also participated in the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP), where I got paid as an E-5 and got to drill as a Cadet with a local National Guard unit.
I was VERY fortunate to get to serve with the 2/108th Infantry Battalion in Ogdensburg and Plattsburg, NY, respectively. I got to serve as a Company XO and get some real world experience. That experience was just as important (and good) as my ROTC experience. If you are given the option to do the SMP Program, take advantage of it and do it!
About Clarkson University
Clarkson University is located in Potsdam, New York. The school has approximately 3,000 students and 50 academic programs. They are best known for their engineering programs. The school was founded in 1896. Their ROTC program was founded in 1936 and includes students from SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton, St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University. Learn more about their ROTC program.
7 Reasons to Join Army ROTC
- Graduate college debt free
- Get a scholarship and have your tuition paid for (or most of it paid)
- Book allowance
- Monthly stipend while in college
- Earn extra money while serving in ARNG or USAR while in college
- Serve your country
- Learn leadership
- Have a well rounded college experience
- Have a secure job after graduation
- Have mentors who care about you
About Army ROTC
The Army Reserve Officer Training Program, also known as ROTC, is designed to develop future Army officers. There are currently more than 20,000 cadets at 273 campuses in the United States. The program commissioned its first class in 1920. The motto is “Leadership Excellence” and their headquarters is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. You can learn more about ROTC here.
About Potsdam, New York
Potsdam, New York is one of the nicest places I have ever lived. It is true small town America. It’s also the coldest place I have ever lived. The winters were brutal. The town has about 17,000 people and is the home of SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University. It is located in upstate New York, between Watertown and Plattsburgh.
The End of the Story
Upon graduating from SUNY Potsdam in May 2000, I served 11 years as an Army officer, in both the Active Duty Army and Maryland Army National Guard. I eventually resigned my commission as a Major. I was fortunate to travel the world, earn a Master’s Degree, meet plenty of amazing people, serve in combat, and command troops. What I learned as an officer has shaped me into the man I am today. It was definitely an important chapter in my life. I am now a successful entrepreneur.
In summary, my experience with the Clarkson University Army ROTC program was a fantastic experience. The facilities were top notch, the training was superb, and the instructors were second to none. I consider myself very fortunate to have completed the program and served my country. For anyone considering joining their ROTC program, I would definitely do it!