In a neighborhood of unmotivated, beer-drinking college misfits, it’s hard to imagine a successful program based on dedication and responsibility, yet nestled behind Campbell Hall is a building that houses the best of the best. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program here at UCSB has obtained a level of success reached only by other top-tier programs across the nation. If you spoke with any of the cadets, however, this tradition of excellence is only the beginning. Dedicated to a workout regimen that could put any well-trained athlete in his or her place, the cadets of the Surfrider Battalion have continued to work hard each and every day – and it shows.
During Fall Quarter, the battalion trained for the Ranger Challenge, an extensive three-day event held at Fort Hunter Liggett in Northern California. To prepare, cadets woke up at 4:30 a.m. to do the following: run for one hour at a seven-minute pace, do 300 push-ups, sit-ups and flutter kicks (that’s 900 total), all before 7:30 a.m.
The cadets then endured “Hell Weekend,” which included a 24-hour straight training period. If you’re having a hard time imagining this, be sure to watch the Discovery Channel’s program on Marine Corps training; it’s much the same. But don’t be fooled by this claim, the students in ROTC are not all future marines who could rip your arm off. In fact, the program is more diverse than most other clubs on this campus; full of male and female cadets from the Greek system and club sport teams, as well as biology majors, graduate students and even those playing a varsity sport for the school.
As you might expect, with all these daily tasks comes a large number of benefits, most of which stretch extend well beyond the college years. While in the ROTC program here on campus, a cadet who receives a scholarship has tuition and books paid for, as well as a $400 per month stipend. Students looking for higher education can also rest assured that a future Masters and or Ph.D degree will be covered, given success in the program.
Once they finish school, the opportunities for cadets are endless. The army commitment is, on average, between four to eight years: Most cadets go on to jobs in the army, including infantry, military police, medical service and Judge Advocate General (JAG) positions. For those who don’t continue in the armed forces, it’s no secret that CEOs routinely hire former officers with real-life experience. If you’re a savage like Sgt. 1st Class Steven P. Lycopolus, a sergeant who fought rebels in Somalia during the period depicted in the motion picture “Black Hawk Down,” you might have to let down some of those same corporate tycoons.
At the end of this quarter, two teams of cadets from our campus will participate in the Bataan Death March, a 26.2 mile trek through the badlands of New Mexico. These men and women will compete with full army gear strapped to their frames, eagerly clawing to the finish line. Last year, the men’s and women’s teams finished first and fourth, in their respected fields, pitted against active army ROTC teams and foreign military personnel. Once again, this kind of success does not come easily; the cadets routinely engage in obstacle courses, land navigation and rappelling on a yearly schedule. The use of military weaponry is included in standard training, most notably the M-16 assault rifle, which is certainly no pellet gun.
If the beach is your spot for the day, you might notice a team scrambling through the sand, actively simulating ambushes or raids in a real-world scenario with improvised explosive devices. If this sounds like a fun time, then the ROTC program might be for you. In the meantime, if you know any current junior cadets, make sure to wish them luck at the end of this year: They’ll be participating in a 32-day evaluation that tests the extent of their military knowledge. Upon completion, the best cadets are able to intern as leaders, each taking charge of 40 men, foreshadowing the future of most of these army elite.
All in all, the Surfrider Battalion has achieved a level of success that members of our student body should notice and take part in, if they wish. The kind of leadership skills that many students came to college to gain are literally waiting for you in this program. It’s up to you to walk through those doors and master it.
Christopher Rice is a senior English major.