By Travis Gulbrandson
The University of South Dakota’s ROTC program is being eliminated.
University officials were informed Wednesday by the U.S. Army Cadet Command that the school will be among 13 in the nation that will no longer have a Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
The programs are being eliminated due to downsizing and “other fiscal developments,” said LTC Ross Nelson, professor of military science at USD.
Local reactions are those of “shock and disappointment,” Nelson said.
“I think overall the university just kind of feels like they didn’t have a say in what was happening,” he said.
Not all of the cadets have been told yet, but Nelson said he planned to do so Friday morning during physical training.
“There (were) no indications that the closings were made because of lack of support,” Nelson said. “The school has been great to the program. The program has continued to produce quality lieutenants for the Army. It’s just more of a representation across the U.S. of what areas had overrepresentation for ROTC programs based on population density.”
Currently, the program is slated to continue through the end of the academic year 2015.
“Cadets that are in the program that have graduated by that time will receive their commissions here from USD,” Nelson said.
Cadets who are scheduled to graduate after May 2015 will be given the option to transfer to other universities that have ROTC programs, Nelson said.
“Their benefits of scholarship will follow them to the university that they want to go to,” he said. “If they lose credits in the transfer, if they have to go out of state to get their major … then Cadet Command will extend their benefits to cover the time lost.”
Other regional ROTC programs include those at South Dakota State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, as well as others in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.
The ROTC program at North Dakota State University also has been slated to close, Nelson said.
“Every cadet’s situation is going to be a little different, and cadets won’t have to make the decisions right away from what I know,” Nelson said. “They’ll be given through the end of this school year to decide if they want to transfer, or just end their ROTC contract and stay at USD past 2015.
“There’s no rush to push cadets into a decision,” he said.
The cadets who are in the USD program will continue to be supported by the local cadre, he said.
“They’ll still receive the quality training that they’ve already received,” Nelson said. “We’ll guide them through this process, and we’ll commission two more classes from USD. If the decision is reversed, we’ll stand ready to support that. If it stays the way it is, we’ll move forward with what the Army has told us to do. …
“The cadre will be here throughout the duration of this,” he said. “It’s a long process to close this down.”