Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps

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Active 1916–present
Branch United States Army
Role Officer Training
Garrison/HQ Fort Knox, Kentucky
Motto "Leadership Excellence"

The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC, AROTC, or SROTC) is the United States Army component of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. It is the largest ROTC program, with 20,000 ROTC cadets in 273 ROTC programs at major universities throughout the United States.

The modern Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps was created by the National Defense Act of 1916. This program commissioned its first class of lieutenants in 1920. The concept behind ROTC, however, had its roots in military training which began taking place in civilian colleges and universities as early as 1819 with the founding of the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont, followed by various state chartered military schools, and finally civilian land grant colleges after the Civil War, which required military training.

ROTC progression

For a cadet who takes only the first two years of ROTC (Basic Course), there is no military obligation, unless the student is a 3-4 year scholarship cadet or has other specific scholarships. If a cadet has accepted a scholarship, service commitments may vary. With some exceptions, in order to progress to the last two years of the program (Advanced Course), the cadet must contract with the United States Army. To do so, the student enlists in the United States Army Reserve Control Group (ROTC) as a cadet and elects to serve on either active duty or in a reserve component (Army National Guard or Army Reserve).

Course of instruction

There are two ROTC courses of instruction administered: branch material and general military science. The far majority of ROTC programs today are general military science (many having previously been branch material). If a program is branch material, the course of instruction is designed to prepare the cadet for appointment as a commissioned officer in a specific branch of the Army. A branch material unit may offer training in one or more specific branches. The cadet will train during ROTC specifically for that branch (e.g., aviation, engineering, nursing). When the cadet graduates, he or she will be commissioned in that branch. If the program is general military science (GMS), then the ROTC program will prepare the cadet for appointment as a commissioned officer in any branch of the army for which he or she is qualified, as determined by the Army through a selection process. The following is an outline of a general military science program.[1]

Basic Course

Army ROTC cadets on a field training exercise

Basic Course Qualification Requirements

A candidate for freshman and sophomore level ROTC training must:

  • Be of good moral character
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be able to graduate before 30 years of age
  • Be physically able to participate in the program of instruction
  • Meet other entrance requirements as determined by the departmental chair, current army regulations, and university policies

A student who does not meet all of the above requirements should consult with the Department of Military Science and Leadership to determine if waivers can be granted.

Military Science I year (MSI)

This year serves as the cadets’ first introduction to the Army. Topics covered include military courtesy, military history, basic first aid, basic rifle marksmanship, basic hand grenade use, land navigation, rappelling, fundamentals of leadership, map orienteering, field training, and drill and ceremony.

Military Science II year (MSII)

The second year is an expansion of the topics taught in the first year of the program. Cadets are introduced to tactics, troop leading procedures, basics of operations orders, and ethics.

Leadership Training Course

The Leadership Training Course (LTC) is a four-week (28-day) program of classroom and field training held during summers at Fort Knox, KY. LTC is a summary version of the first two years of leadership development training that cadets receive at their university for the basic course. This course is to be completed either in cadet’s freshman or sophomore summer in order for cadets to qualify to enroll in advanced course of Army ROTC. Link:[2]

Advanced Course

Military Science III year (MSIII)

The third year marks the beginning of the Advanced Course. This is where most cadets must contract with the Army to continue in the program. Cadets may be eligible for the Advanced Course if the following criteria are met:

  • The cadet has prior military service OR
  • The cadet has completed the first two years of the program (Basic Course) OR
  • The cadet has graduated the Leaders Training Course (formerly Basic Camp) at Ft. Knox, KY AND
  • The cadet has completed 54 credits (at least 60 preferred) of college coursework.

The course sequence in this year is mainly focused on the application of leadership and small-unit tactics. Cadets are assigned rotating leadership positions within the School Battalion and are evaluated on their performance and leadership abilities while in those positions. Third-year cadets practice briefing operations orders, executing small-unit tactics, leading and participating in physical training, and preparing for successful performance at the four week Leader Development and Assessment Course during the summer following the third year. Under current regulations, attendance at the course is mandatory (in the past, Ranger School was offered as an alternative to select cadets).

Leadership Development Program

During the MSIII year and continuing through the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), cadets are introduced to the Leadership Development Program (LDP). The LDP is a structured set of rotations where MSIII cadets are assigned to specific roles in an organization consisting of Companies, Platoons, and Squads. Some of the roles traditionally filled are that of a Company Commander, Company XO, First Sergeant, Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and Squad Leader.

While filling this positions the MSIII is evaluated according to their ability to exemplify the seven Army Values as well as perform in 17 Leadership Dimensions outlined as:

Presence Intellectual Capacity Leads Develops Achieves
Military Bearing Mental Agility Leads Others Creates a Positive Environment Gets Results
Physically Fit Sound Judgment Extends Influence beyond CoC Prepares Self
Confident Innovation Leads by Example Develops Others
Resilient Interpersonal Tact Communicates
Domain Knowledge

The evaluation is usually given by an MSIV and is delivered in writing using Cadet Command Form 156-4A-R commonly referred to as a "Blue Card" due to its traditional color. For each dimension and once overall for the entire rotation in a leadership position the MSIII cadet is evaluated with one of three letters: E - Exceeds the Standard (Excellent), S - Satisfactory, or N - Needs Improvement.[1] At the end of the MSIII school year these evaluations are collected to create a school Order of Merit List (OML) which can give a cadet extra points towards the National OML upon completion of LDAC.

Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC)

The Cadet Summer Training(CST) [(formerly[Leader Development and Assessment Course|Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC)]] is a paid four-week leadership course formerly conducted at Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Riley, Kansas, during the summer. Beginning in the summer of 2014, CST will be consolidated at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Typically, cadets attend LDAC during the summer between their first and second years in the Advanced Course (junior and senior year of college). At CST, cadets take on various leadership roles and are evaluated on their performance and leadership abilities in those positions. Cadets also participate in adventure training, to include: confidence and obstacle courses, rappelling, water safety, weapons firing, and patrolling. Cadets must attend and complete this course to earn an Army commission.

Military Science IV year (MSIV)

This is the final year of the ROTC program and the main focus is towards preparing cadets to become successful lieutenants in the Army upon graduation and commissioning. Senior cadets apply for their branches (career fields). Senior cadets apply before end of their third year but have until mid September to make any changes before they are locked in. In early November, cadets are notified of which branch and status they were granted (e.g., Regular Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard). For those cadets selected for the reserve component (Army Reserve or Army National Guard), they are responsible for locating a unit with which to serve. Cadets selected for active duty (Regular Army) are notified of their first duty assignment in the spring semester, typically in early April. Throughout their senior year, MSIV cadets are assigned cadet battalion staff positions and are responsible for evaluating MS III cadets, planning and coordinating training operations and missions. The primary purpose of the MSIV year is to learn how to manage and evaluate training in the field while learning officership in the classroom.

Branch assignment for cadets

Branch assignments are made according to the needs of the Army. Consideration is given to the cadet's area of academic specialty and their individual desires. Army policy is to assign graduating cadets to a branch and specialty code based on the following:

  • Army branch/specialty strength requirements.
  • Academic disciplines.
  • Personal preference.
  • Recommendation of the Professor of Military Science
  • Demonstrated performance and potential.
  • Prior military experience.
  • Other experience.


ROTC cadets on a small unit tactical operations training exercise in Boston, Massachusetts.

Leadership labs place cadets in leadership positions, teach and provide practical experience in military drill and ceremonies, troop leading procedures, small unit tactical operations, rappelling, and water survival. Labs are held during the week and run for approximately two hours.

Physical fitness training

Physical fitness training builds physical conditioning, teamwork, and self-confidence. Physical fitness training sessions are scheduled for one-hour and the intensity, time and type of exercises varies. All ROTC students must complete the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) with at least the minimum (60%) in each of the three categories according to their age bracket (See Army Physical Fitness Test). Also each battalion may make its own standards. For example, a battalion may set a standard of scoring no less than 70% (10% more than the Army requires) in each category. Failure to reach the battalion standard may require increased physical fitness training on days of rest (commonly known as "incentive or remedial PT").

Requirements for Commissioning

The U.S. Army Cadet Command commissions officers to meet the Army’s leadership requirements and provides a citizenship program that motivates young people to be strong leaders and better citizens.

  • Be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Less than 42 years old at time of commissioning.
  • Be medically qualified at the time of commissioning.
  • Per AR 600-9, meet the Height/Weight requirements for your age
  • Per AR 145-1, pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) within 6 months of the date of commissioning.
  • Pass a swim test and a Combat Water Survival Test (CWST).
  • Obtain a security clearance with a Secret status.
  • Complete Military Science Level I and II classes
  • Or Complete the Leader’s Training Course (LTC) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky
  • Or Complete Basic Training and AIT
  • Complete Military Science Level III classes
  • Complete the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky
  • Complete Military Science Level IV classes
  • Complete a Military History course
  • Earn a degree from an accredited four year institution.


The cadre at each university usually consists of six to eight officers ranking from captain to colonel, as well as non-commissioned officers ranking from staff sergeant to sergeant major and civilian technical assistants. It is the cadre's job to teach and oversee the day-to-day operations of the ROTC program. Every Army ROTC program has a professor of military science, usually a lieutenant colonel; it is his/her job to instruct the MSIV’s as they make the transition from cadet to second lieutenant. Assistant Professor of Military Science; it is his/her job to instruct the MSI/II/III classes and teach them the fundamentals of tactics, map reading, land navigation, and drill and ceremony (among other things). Recruiting operations officer; it is his/her job to make sure that every cadet coming into the program is eligible. The executive officer (if authorized) and NCO personnel also assist with the training of the cadets. The civilian technicians are usually retired military personnel whose job is to help the officers with paperwork and medical forms from the cadets.


The United States Army offers ROTC scholarships that assist students with financing their education. Scholarship eligibility requirements

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • At least 17 years of age before the scholarship is effective
  • Scored a 920 on SAT or 17 on ACT
  • 2.5 GPA or higher
  • Participant in leadership, extra-curricular, and athletic activities
  • Under 32 years old at time of commissioning
  • High school graduate or equivalent
  • Agree to accept a commission upon graduation
  • Meet physical standards
  • Must be accepted to the university that offers the scholarship

Note that these are just the minimum requirements. The Army seeks to recruit what it calls Scholar, Athlete, Leaders (SAL's). A typical 4-year scholarship winner scores around 1250 on the SAT (or 24 on the ACT), and has a high school GPA of 3.5. A large number of scholarship winners are also members of the National Honor Society, serve in student-body government, or are varsity sports team captains.[2]

Types of Army ROTC scholarships

There are three types of Army ROTC scholarships available:[3]

  • The four-year scholarship is designed for high school students planning on attending a four-year college program.
  • The three-year scholarship is available for students who have three academic years of college remaining.
  • The two-year scholarship is available for students who have two academic years of college remaining.

The Army ROTC scholarship entitles its recipients to full-tuition assistance, as well as a textbook/fee allowance and a monthly stipend to cover the student’s living expenses. Typically, cadets receive tuition assistance. However, they also have the option to apply the scholarship to their ‘room and board’ expenses instead of school tuition.

The amount that cadets on the ROTC scholarship receive for their monthly stipend is as follows:

  • Year 1: $300 a month
  • Year 2: $350 a month
  • Year 3: $450 a month
  • Year 4: $500 a month

Alternative to the ROTC scholarship

The Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) is an alternative route to receive military scholarship benefits. The program requires cadets to enlist in a reserve unit (Army Reserve or National Guard) while enrolled in ROTC. ROTC cadets on scholarship are not allowed to participate in SMP. SMP cadets are not required to complete Basic Combat Training (BCT) or Advanced Individual Training (AIT), but it is necessary to receive specific benefits. The benefits are as follows:

Army Reserve benefits

  • Drill pay at E-5 or higher
  • Cadet rank
  • GI Bill
  • Tuition assistance
  • GI Bill Kicker (If qualified)[3]

Once contracted, ROTC cadets cannot be deployed. However, they are required to attend all drill events with their unit. This includes drill weekend and advanced training.


Training options

An Army ROTC unit practicing rapelling from a parking garage in September 2010.

Cadets may compete for training opportunities conducted at active army schools. This training is usually conducted during the summer months but some allocations are available during the winter holidays. Cadets are selected to attend this training based on their overall standing within the program. Since the number of allocations are limited, selection for schools is competitive and based on factors including ROTC grades, academic grades, participation in ROTC activities, APFT scores and advisor recommendations.

Air Assault School

Cadets are trained in airmobile operations, including rappelling from helicopters, airmobile tactics and rigging air mobile cargo. This is a two-week course taught at Fort Campbell, Kentucky or Fort Rucker, Alabama. Upon successful completion, the cadet is awarded the Air Assault Badge.

Airborne School

Army airborne training is conducted for three weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon successful completion cadets are awarded the Parachutist Badge.

Cadet Field Training (CFT)

This is an 4-week program of instruction executed by the United States Military Academy to develop the leadership skills of sophomore cadets. Seven weeks of CFT will be at Camp Buckner, NY. CFT consists of basic skill level training ending with Maneuver Light Training during which the cadets train on how to defend and attack an opposing force.

The Cadet Intern Program

An initiative of ASA/MRA, allows cadets to work with Department of the Army (DA), the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve (OCAR), National Guard Bureau (NGB), or the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for 3 weeks.

Cadet Troop Leadership Training

Cadet Troop Leadership Training is an optional program for MSIII cadets during the summer following completion of LDAC. This three week CONUS or 4 week OCONUS program trains cadets in lieutenant positions with active army units. Assignments are available in nearly all branches and with units worldwide.

Northern Warfare Training Course

This is a three-week course covering tactical operations in a cold weather climate. The course is taught at Fort Greeley, Alaska. Cadets are trained in winter survival techniques, skiing, snowshoeing and cold weather patrolling.

Mountain Warfare School

This course is taught at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, Vermont. It is taught in two phases, each lasting two weeks. The summer phase teaches and tests cadets on military mountaineering operations including rock climbing, rappelling and orienteering. The winter phase teaches and tests on similar tasks but in the winter environment. It includes ice climbing, cross-country skiing and cold weather operations.

Activities and clubs

Ranger Challenge

Ranger Challenge is the varsity sport of Army ROTC. A Ranger Challenge team is made up of 9 people, 8 active participant and 1 reserved.[4] They compete against other colleges throughout the nation in events such as: patrolling, weapons assembly, one-rope bridge, Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation, and a ten kilometer road march. This is both a physically and mentally grueling competition.

Color Guard

Color Guard is responsible for posting the colors for ceremonial events (football games, dining ins and dining outs, military balls, and commencements), as well as cannon detail at football games, in order to show honor towards flag and country.

Military ball

These formal social events are designed to allow cadets to experience the type of social gathering and military etiquette they can expect as future commissioned officers. Cadets are encouraged to bring spouses/dates. Many dignitaries are invited, including the school president, certain university officials, and representatives of veterans’ societies, parents and relatives.

Pershing Rifles


Map of the Army ROTC Brigades

ROTC is composed of eight brigades which command 273 ROTC units, referred to as battalions (though these units are typically much smaller than regular army battalions.) The brigades command ROTC units throughout different regions of the country.

Cadet Creed

The Creed is recited at all dress functions usually following the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

I am an Army cadet.

Soon I will take an oath and become on Army officer committed to defending the values which make this nation great.
Honor is my touchstone.

I understand mission first and people always.

I am the past, the spirit of those warriors who have made the final sacrifice.

I am the present, the scholar and apprentice Soldier enhancing my skills in the science of warfare and the art of leadership.

But above all, I am the future, the future warrior leader of the United States Army.

May God give the compassion and judgment to lead and the gallantry in battle to win.

I will do my duty.

Notable graduates

In 1960, General George H. Decker became the first ROTC graduate named Chief of Staff of the Army. General Colin Powell was the first ROTC graduate named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a graduate of the City College of New York. He later served as the United States Secretary of State.

Chiefs of staff of the Army or Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to graduate from Army ROTC include:

The Citadel holds the record among ROTC schools for the most general and flag officers produced, with 288 as of 2015.[5][6] The University of Oregon has produced the highest number of general officers out of the civilian ROTC schools, with a total of 47.[7] In 2015, the Citadel produced more Army officers than any other ROTC program.[8][9]


The ROTC Medal for Heroism

There are three Department of the Army decorations authorized exclusively to cadets:

Outside these, cadets are eligible for numerous U.S. Army awards and decorations, as well as awards and decorations sponsored by various military societies and organizations. These include:[10][4]


  1. Although General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army during WWII, was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he technically received a direct commission, since the modern-day ROTC program had not officially been established when he graduated.


  1. "Leadership Development Program (LDP) Handbook" (PDF). US Army Cadet Command. Retrieved 16 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "RPI Army ROTC". Retrieved 2016-04-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The Citadel - General & Flag Officers". Retrieved 2015-11-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Alumni". VMI Profile. VMI. 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2006-11-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "University of Oregon ROTC History". University of Oregon Army ROTC. University of Oregon. 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Cadet Command exceeds commissioning mission". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2015-11-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "ROTC Participation". About the Corps. TAMU. 2006. Archived from the original on 7 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-20. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "CCR 672-5-1". Cadet Command Awards Matrix. Department of the Army. Archived from Matrix.xls the original Check |url= value (help) on October 17, 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-29. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External references

U.S. Army Cadet Command Homepage