ROTC lends the military a critical mix

Jan. 14, 2011, 12:22 a.m.

I was on campus today and saw a copy of The Stanford Daily featuring your article on ROTC.

I enlisted as an Air Force aviation cadet in 1944 out of high school. My first military assignment was to Stanford as part of Air Force cadet training. The war ended as I was entering pre-flight in Mississippi. I was then trained as a cryptographer and served in the German occupation.

After discharge, I returned to Stanford. I became head copy editor of The Stanford Daily and was commissioned in the ROTC in 1950. I continued on The Daily through graduate school. My association with the ROTC officers’ group, The Daily and the senior class executive committee were among my fondest memories at Stanford.

During the widespread campus “turmoils” of the 1960s, ROTC programs throughout the nation were under assault from anti-military groups. I had occasion to have a conversation with then-Stanford president Kenneth Pitzer. I argued that it was a mistake to abandon ROTC programs in colleges. ROTC was an important avenue into the officer corps of our armed forces for those whose basic educational experience and orientation had been shaped by the civilian institutions. If these avenues disappeared, the only route for those wishing to serve their nation in the military/navy would be the professional academies: West Point, VMI, Annapolis, Air Force Academy, etc.

Excellent as these are, it would tend to change the character of the officer corps from reflecting the input of the citizen-solder to a solely professional officer corps. This is certainly not bad, but it does alter the makeup of the military and, therefore, if I may say so, would contradict the underlying intent of the objectors. I would think that they, and indeed I, would prefer that the mix of the military defending our nation include the element of the citizen-soldier. President Pitzer’s response to my point was that he agreed completely.

In hindsight, we know that anti-ROTC forces at that time were not resisted. However, I believe that that sentiment was contradictory, and therefore counter-productive. Let us not repeat this misstep. It should also be remembered that our recent highly regarded “top soldier,” and ROTC graduate, was Gen. Colin Powell (also former Secretary of State).

Dr. Dean Holman, A.B. ’51, M.B.A. ’52

Capt. USAF Res. (Ret.)

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