In today’s post I want to talk about my experience at Clarkson Army ROTC. I was a student 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 in June 1995. In January 1996 I attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson. My first duty assignment was with the Old Guard (3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment) at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Sometime during the summer of 1998, while I was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) 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 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 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. After I made the decision to become an officer I sat down with my Company Commander, got a letter of recommendation, and drafted up my Green to Gold packet.
Of course, I had to pick a university, so I went to the education center at Fort Myer and talked with one of the 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 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 ROTC program and that was it. So I applied to the program and fortunately got accepted. I didn’t apply to any other schools.
Of course, I was not going to be a student at Clarkson University. They are known as an engineering school and I was a liberal arts major. So, 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 ROTC
So 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 their 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 provide 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.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- The Types of Army ROTC Scholarships: What You Should Know
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- ROTC Battalion Commander: Professor of Military Science
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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 Army ROTC experience, I also participated in the SMP Program, 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. So, 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 the Clarkson University ROTC program.
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 had that experience. For anyone considering joining their ROTC program, I would definitely do it!