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ROTC: Trojan Battalion Celebrates First Commissioning at CSU Dominguez Hills

 

 

Photos by Joanie Harmon; captions below

ROTC: Trojan Battalion Celebrates First Commissioning at CSU Dominguez Hills

Together we are much more than we would be separately.
- Maj. Victor Stephenson, assistant professor of military science
 

A Commissioning Ceremony for the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at California State University, Dominguez Hills was held on May 24 in the Sculpture Garden. This was the first such ceremony to be held on the CSUDH campus, which conducts its ROTC program, named the Trojan Battalion, in association with cadres at CSU Long Beach and USC.

Cadets Michael Spahr (Class of ’06, B.S., Public Administration) and Apollo Williams (Class of ’05, B.S., Business Administration/Marketing) were commissioned as U.S. Army second lieutenants, the junior rank in the officer corps.  Keynote speaker Brigadier General James P. Combs, commander of the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard and of the Joint Force Training Base Los Alamitos, greeted the cadets and the audience of family, friends, and CSUDH faculty and staff.

Spahr is currently a member of the 140th Chemical Company in the California Army National Guard, and will be on active duty status in the Chemical Corps branch of the Army. A graduate of Los Alamitos High School, he transferred to CSUDH after attending both Orange Coast College and Long Beach City College.

Williams is currently a member of B Battery, 1-144 Field Artillery in the California Army National Guard and will serve as a disbursement officer in the Finance Corps branch of the California Army National Guard. A graduate of Hanford Joint Union High School, he is now working on a certificate in Information Systems at CSUDH. 
Drawn to ROTC initially because of the physical training, Williams credits the experience with broadening his career choices.

“ROTC gave me more options,” he says. “Instead of heading into business like I was planning, I can go into active duty or into finance.”

Along with leadership skills, Williams values gaining “the drive to succeed, and the willingness to never quit.” Adapting to the structure of the military has shown him that “It takes a good follower in order to be an effective and proficient leader. In order to lead, one must be able to listen to advice and suggestions, and decipher what is important to the mission at hand.”

The mission can include many careers outside of the military, according to Maj.
Victor Stephenson, assistant professor of military science, CSUDH.

“Students who are commissioned as officers have a strong foundation of leadership and management skills coupled with other expertise they gain from the broad range of specialties which they train in during their military service,” he says.  “These include the fields of medicine, engineering, logistics, maintenance, administration, finance, communication, intelligence, education, public affairs, law enforcement, and security. Whether an individual is ultimately considering a military or civilian career, the Army experience provides invaluable leadership skills that both the military and private sectors of our society value.”

Cadet Adrian Ventling appreciates the opportunity to build “the well rounded character that ROTC strives to bring out in its cadets.” He is currently a military intelligence analyst in the California Army National Guard and hopes to pursue an active duty military career as a military intelligence officer.

Capt. Ted Arlauskas, enrollment and scholarship officer and assistant professor of military science, has spent a total of 13 years between active duty and the Army Reserves. He recalls his days as a cadet at Christopher Newport University in Virginia as instrumental in choosing a career path, and even changing it.

“Like many college students, I was mostly focused on graduating at the time, and hadn't really put too much thought into what I was going to do after college,” he says. “The Army and ROTC prepared me by having a fun, challenging, and rewarding job waiting for me when I graduated.”

Arlauskas, who has been deployed in his career to Haiti, Bosnia, and Kuwait, points out that many students believe that they are going to be automatically shipped off to combat.

“Some students don't understand that an officer is a manager and leader versus joining the Army as an enlisted soldier,” he says. “Many students think that enrolling in ROTC classes is signing up to ship off to basic training, it’s anything but that. ROTC is a series of elective classes full-time college students can take while working on a bachelor’s or master’s degree.  Upon graduation, they become an officer in either the active duty Army, which is a full-time commitment, or the Army Reserve and National Guard, for part-time service.”
 
ROTC courses are designed to give students a glimpse of what it is like to be in the Army, and they do not sign a contract committing them to service until their junior year. 

“If a student finds out that ROTC is not a good fit for them,” says Arlauskas, “they can just stop taking our classes before they contract, without a penalty and with elective credit for the classes they've taken.”

The financial gains of joining ROTC are undeniably a draw for students, who are eligible to apply for full-tuition scholarships or financial assistance. Cadets who contractually commit to ROTC are paid a monthly stipend ranging from $300 to $500. Additional GI Bill benefits are available to cadets who are currently serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves or who have already served on active duty. In fiscal terms for the University, ROTC faculty are paid for by the U.S. Army and do not come out of the state budget.

Arlauskas commends the cadets for the enthusiasm they bring to the program, saying, “I remember how hard it was to be a cadet.  I had to juggle the mentally and physically demanding requirements of ROTC along with my part-time job, my social life, and my work as a full-time college student.  Our cadets take it all in stride. We're putting a lot on their plates, but they understand that the experience is ultimately preparing them for challenging and rewarding jobs after college.”

Debunking myths about ROTC for non-cadets are also part of the Trojan Battalion’s mission, according to Arlauskas, who says that its presence on campus adds to the college experience on many levels.

“ROTC gives the average college student who doesn't have any military experience or knowledge a little insight into that world,” he says. “Exposure to our cadets helps students understand the sacrifices made by our nation's men and women in uniform.

Several of their fellow CSUDH students have already been deployed around the world in their prior experience as active duty enlisted soldiers and members of the National Guard.

Alan Leutele (senior, Public Administration) served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which fought its way to Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq.  Enrique Monreal (senior, Public Administration) served in the 82nd Airborne Division, helping to unseat the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Sally Ramirez (senior, Communications) is a National Guard military police soldier who served in Iraq.

According to Stephenson, the program has grown since he arrived at CSUDH in 2005, from seven cadets to a potential group of 30 for fall of 2006. As a result, there will be more facilities available on campus as opposed to the Dominguez Hills cadets having to travel to CSU Long Beach or USC for training events.

“We are already doing most of our physical training here in the early morning, as well as conducting all of our military science classes. With these increased numbers, and hopefully some additional space that we have requested through the Space Utilization Committee, we will be able to conduct our lab sessions here, as well as combine classroom learning with practical applications and exercise,” he says.

The imminent possibility of being deployed to Iraq has not deterred enrollment in ROTC.

“The students coming to us are better informed about what is required of them as an officer in the Army,” says Arlauskas. “They know that joining the Army is a commitment to serving their nation and that their chosen career is not without potential hazards.  The students now enrolling in ROTC want to take an active role in their world.  They want more than a job - they want a rewarding career that makes a difference.”

Stephenson underscores the belief of the cadets in their support of their country, saying that, “The Army and Army ROTC bring a strong belief in service to the nation to this campus community where people gather to learn and share.

“As Americans, we represent different points of view and have different goals, not only for ourselves, but also for society,” he notes. “But we are all citizens first, bound by certain ideals and beliefs - such as freedom and rights - that form what we know as the United States of America. Together, we are much more than we would be separately.”

For more information on the ROTC program at CSUDH, go to http://trojanrotc.org/csudh/index.htm; e-mail tarlauskas@csudh.edu; or call
call Capt. Arlauskas at (310) 243-3017.

- Joanie Harmon

Photo above: Former ROTC cadets Michael Spahr (Class of ’06, B.S., Public Administration) and Apollo Williams (Class of ’05, B.S., Business Administration/Marketing) don their berets after receiving their commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

 
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Last updated Monday, June 12, 2006, 10:57 a.m., by Joanie Harmon