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ROTC or not

Old 12-01-2015, 12:35 PM
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My middle son is hoping to get an Army ROTC national scholarship, he has applied and received feedback from a school in Tx and Mi that he has received it (waiting for the official letters).

I'm doing my best to be supportive and happy for him... but I'm actually not. He has always been a very independent kid, works jobs when not in sports, captain of football and lacrosse teams, decent student, OK ACT (26), wants nothing to do with a career where he spends his time inside. We are fortunate to have saved enough to pay for his college (as well as his brothers) but he just says that he wants to pay for it himself. Then jokes... use the money to get me a truck! I struggle with the young kid making a decision that in a few years he may regret... he's signing up for 4 years of active duty and 4 of reserve. His first choice would be to get into ranger school as an officer after college.

When I was 18, starting college, I was most concerned about where the next party was and which girl I was hoping to date...

Not sure if I have screwed up as a parent or done a great job.
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:41 PM
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Is he doing ROTC now in HS? Has he applied to West Point or taken an official candidate visit (by invitation only)? My oldest has done the STEM Camp and the Candidate visit at USNA and is undetered by the military way of life and wants to pursure Cyber Ops as a major and career. I think some are just cut from a different cloth, so do as I am doing (nodding my head and saying we did a good job )
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:45 PM
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Very honest of you to post your thoughts.

I think you're in a fortunate position to have a son that's so driven toward his education and career, and to have the desire to pay his own way.

I also don't think it's unreasonable that you're apprehensive as a parent toward a relatively long term decision that your son is making, and maybe having the desire to "save him" from the commitment so that he can keep his options open.

I'm sure some of the current and ex-military on the forum will chime in, and with better experience to comment on that I have.
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:55 PM
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there are two other options that each of my sons did. since paying for college is not the problem look into these two programs

1.USMC PLC platoon leader class. you go to college as usual, during the summer between your junior year and senior year you go to Quantico for OCS. If you pass OCS you are offered a commission WHEN YOU GRADUATE. you have no obligation what so ever. when you graduate , the week later you are commissioned and get in line for 6 months at TBS. this way he gets a taste of the military at OCS but is not committed for another year

2. Navy, NUPOC program. this one is a bit harder. it helps to be an engineer. at the end of 2 or 3rd year you apply for Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate. This is not easy to get in, it requires multiple testing and interviews. In the end you wind up in DC in front of the Admiral and if you pass you are immediately made active duty and paid at an E5 rate. You stay in school. You also get a 15K signing bonus ,part when you sign and part when you pass OCS

with NUPOC you run the reactor on a sub or carrier. It takes a special person to go thru all the training and spend so much time under water. but it is an alternate way.

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Old 12-01-2015, 12:58 PM
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I work on government programs at a civilian job. I work with all types of military personnel. ROTC is a great way to go about it. Just think, at age 25 he will have a college degree, a skill, and 4 years of real world experience. He'll likely be an officer and have personnel management experience for his resume. College will still be fun.... and let's face it, a 26 ACT isn't likely going to work for an academy anyway.

I'd say go for it! Actually, I'd go as far as to say given the opportunity to be 17 again, ROTC is exactly how I'd do it.

A little different way to skin a similar (but different) cat: Take the first semester off after high school and join the National Guard. Then go to drill once a month for the four years you're in college. All the while letting the guard pay your tuition. Your commitment is over shortly after you graduate, then you can figure out the rest from there.
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Old 12-01-2015, 01:22 PM
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I was a 3 year Army ROTC scholarship guy back 30 years ago. ROTC in college is challenging in your junior and senior years. It takes up A LOT of time on week ends and you are in the field as much as you can be.

It is all run by Officers with Ranger tabs or West Point officers. I had medical issues in my senior year so I did not finish but it was moderately demanding, nothing like West Point but not a breeze either. Summers get filled up by training also... If he does it, tell him to go to Airborne school after Sophomore year, it is easier the younger you are..

The leadership training was good and they pushed personal accountability. Just tell him once he signs those papers he has 8 years after college. The military has some remarkable people (true patriots) and some real sh!t head duds.. It is the experience for sure, just maybe more than what he 5hinks
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Old 12-01-2015, 01:32 PM
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Yes the leadership and other TIS training is top notch. If his primary reason is really to serve his country even in the capacity as an infantry soldier I say go for it. If he is doing it for financial, glory, leadership or other training to apply to civilian life, or any other reason - I would wait till he was older to make that decision.
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Old 12-01-2015, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by LI Sound Grunt View Post
Yes the leadership and other TIS training is top notch. If his primary reason is really to serve his country even in the capacity as an infantry soldier I say go for it. If he is doing it for financial, glory, leadership or other training to apply to civilian life, or any other reason - I would wait till he was older to make that decision.
Pretty much sums it up..
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bogue View Post
Is he doing ROTC now in HS? Has he applied to West Point or taken an official candidate visit (by invitation only)? My oldest has done the STEM Camp and the Candidate visit at USNA and is undetered by the military way of life and wants to pursure Cyber Ops as a major and career. I think some are just cut from a different cloth, so do as I am doing (nodding my head and saying we did a good job )
No, senior in HS, applying for college ROTC where they pay...
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by LI Sound Grunt View Post
Yes the leadership and other TIS training is top notch. If his primary reason is really to serve his country even in the capacity as an infantry soldier I say go for it. If he is doing it for financial, glory, leadership or other training to apply to civilian life, or any other reason - I would wait till he was older to make that decision.
His primary reason is to serve his country. Stickers on the old truck he's driving are Don't Tread on Me, a USA flag, Army, and Buy American. He is a very hard worker, worked on a golf course last 2 summers 5am-3ish, then off to football camp/workout/practice every day, 6 or 7 days a week most weeks. Loves to hunt and fish, wants to work hard and loves physical work.

Thanks for the feedback, we don't have relatives or close friends with recent military background (dad was in Korean war... long time ago). All input is welcome.
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:15 PM
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He will learn a lot in ROTC/active duty as an officer. If he has the tickets then he needs to try for West Point. By tickets I mean grades, special sports skills, demeanor, leadership skills etc. There is a representative from West Point in your area certainly in your state. You need to go see him ASAP. A Congressional Appointment would be nice. Ne really needs to get going on this now! The West Point scholarship is a 100% FREE RIDE..........
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:18 PM
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First, congrats to your son for being one of the few of our nation's kids that meets the criteria and are willing to serve. Now, it seems that your concern is not what path (Academy, ROTC, OCS) he takes to become an Officer but the fact that he is serving in any capacity in the first place. This may be misplaced, but some people with no close friends or family in the military seem to think it's something kids do when they couldn't do much else. If that's what you're thinking and why you wonder if "you've screwed up" as a parent, I can tell you that is not an accurate representation of Officers (nor a good percentage of the enlisted).

The academies are 5-year active duty requirements. ROTC is 4 unless you go to flight school and then it's 6 years after graduating flight school which is a year long itself. OCS, I believe is 3 but I could be wrong on that. All military commitments are a total of 8 years in some fashion. The part not active is in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) which is the non-drilling, break glass, recall everyone Reserves... not the one weekend a month reserves. There are also ROTC scholarships for the drilling reserves but I couldn't tell you how that works.

Here are some pieces of information and/or advice, in no certain order:

1. Ranger school is a school not a career track. Officers in certain branches of the Army are afforded the opportunity to attend this school. A few of those will have the opportunity of serving in the Ranger Regiment. There are not many Officers that have this opportunity in the grand scheme of things. It would be tough to be an effective leader in the Infantry without having graduated Ranger school because he would lack credibility. Airborne and Air assault are other courses that he will likely be afforded the opportunity to attend those during the summers while in college. ROTC uses them as a recruiting tool for cadets.

2. He can use a ROTC scholarship to pay for all undergraduate level college, plus receive a monthly stipend while in college. When he decides to get out, he can use his GI Bill to pay for all graduate school and receive a very generous monthly housing allowance while in grad school.

3. It is easier to receive a 2-year or 3-year ROTC scholarship than the full 4-year scholarship. You could pay for the freshman year and have him check it out and sees if he changes his mind if it really bothers you.

4. If he pursues this, he will be commissioned upon graduation at age 22 and make decent money for someone that age. By age 26-28, he will be making around $80-90K in 2015 dollars (with about $20K of that tax free depending on location) with no student loan debt and still have the GI Bill to pay for grad school.

5. If he is interested, meets the additional requirements, and is extremely competitive he could be selected for flight school.

6. When he is 26 or so, he will have the choice to get out or stay in. If he gets out, he will have headhunting agencies like Cameron-Brooks, Orion, Lucas, etc wanting to place him in junior-executive development jobs around $75-90K a year. If he elects to forego this and attend grad school... he is highly likely to be accepted to a top tier school. I know several Ivy League MBAs that were Army Captains a few years ago.

7. He will find out what branch of the Army he is going into at the beginning of his senior year. Where he stands on the Order of Merit list determines if he gets his wishes. He may want Infantry and end up in Intelligence or some other field. His Grade Point Average, and subjective leadership scores in training determine where he is on the Order of Merit list. Then there is essentially a draft and who knows what branch of the Army he ends up in. A lot of cadets think they want to be hard-core their Freshman year and three years later they realize they can't run that well and don't really like being cold, and that maybe being a logistics Officer would be more lucrative later on anyway. Then some guys will do the opposite.

8. Good ROTC programs produce some of our most outstanding Officers. The problem with ROTC is that the school support, quality, and availability of resources can vary among programs. One advantage of the academies is that they are a known product. There are something like 200 Army ROTC programs and 1 West Point. Everyone who gets into West Point was top of their class and deserved to be there. The quality of peers at a ROTC program will vary and reflect the student body of the school. At a school like Duke or Stanford, well you know the caliber of student that is.

9. The quality of the cadre should be good. The Officers that lead college ROTC programs had to compete to be there and have been very successful to date. This is not high school ROTC.


If your goal for him at age 30 is to be pulling down in the neighborhood of $100K, have an undergraduate and graduate degree paid for, zero student loan debt, access to zero-down home loans forever... then I know of no other program that affords that opportunity while costing the parents nothing. If you know of something better, let me know so I can advise my step-son to do the same.

If you really want to part with the money you saved for him and help him down the road; put it in an IRA for him now and let Uncle Sugar pay for college in return for his service. That money invested for him now will do more for him in 30-40 years than you paying for college when he could have gotten it paid for by the Government.

The new changes to retirement seem to encourage getting out earlier rather than later and there are some very significant challenges it presents to family life over the long term, but I have never met an Officer who regretted serving his initial obligation.
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Last edited by On the Half Shell; 12-01-2015 at 04:05 PM.
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:27 PM
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As an actively serving officer (armor) I'd be happy to answer any additional questions you or your son might have. I commissioned through ROTC in 2004, though I attended VMI, so our program was different from most "regular" ROTC programs. Wherever he goes, the first two years are not terribly demanding. He will have to keep a certain GPA and meet physical fitness standards, but there's not a whole lot of field time. Summer after Sophomore year he can compete for airborne/air assault school slots if he wants. His summer between junior-senior year will be spent training. All in all, it's a good way to pay for college. He'll get 4yrs of real world leadership experience, and if he chooses to get out, he should have a slight advantage with finding quality jobs. My number one advice is for him to get a degree in something useful (engineering, computers, etc). I see a lot of young officers come in with psychology or history degrees and their options are limited if they choose to leave after 4yrs. Good luck.
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Old 12-01-2015, 03:11 PM
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I personally think you're nuts questioning his desire to get a ROTC scholarship. I'm a USNA grad and former Navy officer. My path shaped who I am today and opened huge doors for me on the outside.

There are numerous ways to become an officer, as others have stated. Some will pay your full college tuition, and others nothing. Obviously, the more that's paid, the more obligation you have (for the most part).

In my opinion, your job as a parent is to search out information (what you're doing now), educate yourself as best you can, and provide that information to your son. But please don't discourage him from trying to make a great decision. I was the exact same person- my parents said they would put me through any school I wanted, even if they had to mortgage the house. I said I wanted to do it myself- and I headed to Annapolis. Best decision I ever made.
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Old 12-01-2015, 03:56 PM
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I received a 4 year Navy ROTC scholarship...33 years ago. If he doesnt get the 4 year, many of the other midshipmen applied for and received 3 year rides. It is definitely a good way to go. Keep the grades up and apply to West Point after his freshman year.
Good luck and be proud.
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:08 PM
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First off, thanks for all the informative replies. I've read them all... a couple times.

Also, I'm not discouraging him and will support whatever decision he makes. It's just hard for me to wrap my head around! We are fortunate to be in the position we are and the means to pay for his school.

Regarding West Point (or other) he decided not to apply for a couple reasons. His ACT is 26, gpa 3.5, probably not enough to get in (although he has a lot of leadership stuff through school and sports). Also, I think that engineering is the primary track at the academy's and he's not interested in that. His dream job is more in law enforcement or an outdoor job of some sort.

Thanks again for the help... I may PM a few of you as this goes forward.
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:14 PM
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In the same situation. Anyone else apprehensive about sending kids into the service with the complete lack of competent civilian leadership, ridiculous ROE, and the military being used as a social engineering experiment ?
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ericinmich View Post
First off, thanks for all the informative replies. I've read them all... a couple times.

Also, I'm not discouraging him and will support whatever decision he makes. It's just hard for me to wrap my head around! We are fortunate to be in the position we are and the means to pay for his school.

Regarding West Point (or other) he decided not to apply for a couple reasons. His ACT is 26, gpa 3.5, probably not enough to get in (although he has a lot of leadership stuff through school and sports). Also, I think that engineering is the primary track at the academy's and he's not interested in that. His dream job is more in law enforcement or an outdoor job of some sort.

Thanks again for the help... I may PM a few of you as this goes forward.
Ditto what Elusive just said and I would add LE career is very honorable but with today's environment it is tougher than ever to make a career. I loved being a cop but I was lucky to make retirement without having a single official complaint... I wish your son the best he sounds like a good young man.
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Boataholic View Post
What are his views on our nation's current foreign policy? Does he support invading other countries? Killing innocent civilians? Propping up some dictators whie deposing others? Does he approve of the CIA backing terrorists?
If so, then by all means , encourage him to sign up.
Shitty post.
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:48 PM
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Your son wants to carve out his own path. He sounds like someone to be proud of.
Send him on his way with pride.
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