SUU In View (Alumni Magazine - Fall 2003)
59 SUU students called to duty, honored to serve
Since fall 2002, 59 SUU students have been called to active duty to fulfill various capacities in the war on terrorism. Proportionately, Utah National Guard units have given up one of the largest numbers of soldiers due to the broad pool of skills, such as languages, in the state. Twenty-two of those individuals are cadets from SUU's Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. Three of the cadets are juniors, who, by contract with the U.S. Army, are technically non-deployable. However, according to Sergeant Major Brent Blackner, senior instructor in SUU's ROTC, these three individuals wanted so much to serve their country in the current conflict they wrote letters to their Cadet Commander requesting rescinding the non-deployable clause. This was a sacrifice for obvious reasons, but also because when they return, it will be necessary to re-apply for a new contract and start some of their academic requirements over, as mandated by the Army contract. Another young man requested postponement of his scheduled mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so he could first go and serve his country. Nineteen of the cadets are freshmen and sophomores, and members of a guard unit or army reserve. The remaining 18 are non-ROTC students called to active duty through their guard unit or army reserve membership. Two of the 59 are female ROTC students who are serving in medical detachments.
Blackner states, "These are all young people with goals and ambitions, and they have put them on hold for a greater cause." The Sergeant Major explains that the ROTC program concentrates largely in the freshman and sophomore years on developing leadership and decision-making skills, as well as combat-lifesaving knowledge. "All this is underscored by instilling the ideals of patriotism and duty to country. These young people going into this most recent assignment already display these characteristics very deeply."
Two of the ROTC cadre members were also deployed, leaving only three instructors on campus. Fourteen of the cadets were in one sophomore class. "We've had to make some adjustments in how we conduct the ROTC program," Blackner says. "Some of our exercises are just designed for large group interaction, so we've modified a bit. But, all are optimistic," he adds. At least 30 new freshmen are expected to join the program in the fall semester.
Most importantly, our students who are actively serving right now are doing well, Blackner reports. Through e-mail and a network of colleagues, he's keeping up on the welfare of his cadets. He explains that not all of the cadets are necessarily in combat situations, but in every case they are in positions that help their fellow soldiers do their job successfully. "Regardless of where they are called from, or where or how they serve, there is an indispensable duty needed and being fulfilled" He adds, "Our students are all doing well and are excited about the worthwhile contributions they each know they are making ."
At the very least, Blackner says, their experiences, upon their return will contribute to the "Lessons Learned" element of the ROTC curriculum. "This event in their lives will help in teaching tactics, strategies, leadership, and conducting incredibly relevant roundtable discussions. These cadets are a credit to our program and SUU. They are doing us great honor on so many levels."