CMC's ROTC Program Examined
Established on Pomona's campus in 1916, the Claremont McKenna College Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program has always embodied the school's founding principles: education of students in responsible leadership and development of tomorrow's leaders. Pomona and CMC, then known as Claremont Men's College, started co-hosting the program in 1949. In 1995, Claremont McKenna College assumed full control of ROTC. In its 95 years, the program has provided nearly 5,000 officers to the US Army, including the active Army, the Army reserves, and the National Guard.
Yet, in recent years, America's current military involvement in the Middle East has forced the ROTC program to evolve in response to the Army’s demands. As a result, there has been an increase in demand for cadets as units are being deployed more frequently.
“When I first came here in 2003, the expectation was that we would produce about thirteen officers per year,” explained Lieutenant Colonel William Fitch. “Now the expectation is more than thirty officers per year.”
CMC’s ROTC program has been able to grow its numbers primarily due to an increase in merit scholarships offered to cadets. If CMC cadets meet certain academic requirements, such as maintaining a 3.0 GPA in high school and scoring above 1100 on the SAT, their tuition and room and board costs are fully met for all four years of college. In addition, cadets receive $1200 a year for books and a monthly stipend ranging between $400-500. “There is no other scholarship in the country that is as generous as an Army scholarship,” said Lt. Fitch.
Of the 170 contracted cadets in the ROTC program at CMC and surrounding schools, more than 90 percent receive a full tuition scholarship.
"The purpose of the scholarships is to act as an incentive for students who want to do well in school and not [be] burdened with getting money from other sources," explains Lt. Fitch. "Typically a cadet will have a higher GPA than other students in school."
As a result of the scholarship program and other recruiting efforts, the number of cadets in the ROTC program at CMC and the surrounding areas has quadrupled since 9/11. "In 2003, we had anywhere between 60-65 cadets," observes Lt. Fitch. "Today, we have anywhere between 230-245 cadets at one time."
Since 9/11, the content of ROTC's military science classes and leadership labs has also evolved to reflect specific fighting conditions that cadets may encounter overseas. The current curriculum emphasizes resourcefulness and the ability to adapt to a variety of environments and situations, such as when troops face increasing counter-insurgents while on active duty.
Given the importance of diplomacy and economic development to Army strategy, the ROTC program values cadets with International Relations and Economics degrees. An increasing number of scholarships are offered to cadets for programs like intensive summer languages camps, which allow cadets to acquire critical skills and increase their understanding of foreign culture and politics.
“To go from CMC with a bare bones four year degree and get into the State Department or high end IR job is very difficult,” says Lt. Fitch. "We provide them with opportunities that other students just don't have and leverage these opportunities to created a highly qualified cadet when they get their commission."
The ROTC program also attempts to help cadets enter graduate school and start their careers immediately after college by allowing cadets to serve in National Guard Units stateside while they are students.
“Our mission is to provide the Army with officers," explains Lt. Fitch, "but really we serve as a valuable stepping stone for students who want to pursue a career in the US government and related areas.”