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Bulldogs in Uniform ROTC RETURNS TO YALE


His grey-blue eyes peering over a desk of intricately organized military paraphernalia and family photos, Colonel Scott Manning lightheartedly works to convince us to join Yale’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). A career fighter pilot with two master’s degrees and a combat veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Manning has chosen to be at Yale, on the frontline of military education. As the commander of the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 009, his goal is to expand the program from its current enrollment of eight students to 100, although he tells us with grave sincerity that the U.S. military would be strengthened immeasurably by the addition of 1,000 bright Yalies. AFROTC has a complex history at Yale. It began when the National Security Act of 1947 established the U.S. Department of the Air Force, which created over 200 AFROTC units across the nation’s college campuses in less than a decade. The 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite marked a turning point for the Air Force. Eager to maintain dominance in the sciences, the Air Force decided to focus more on developing new technology than on building the conventional military might that dominated the battlefields of World War II. Within a year, the Air Force pulled out of campuses less focused on technology and engineering, such as Yale. Yale’s Naval Reserve Officers’ 24

Training Corps (NROTC), one of the U.S.’s first six units created in 1926, remained longer. Only after anti-Vietnam War protests erupted was NROTC forced off campus in 1972. When the military repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010, the Yale administration worked hard to coordinate the return of both AFROTC and NROTC. The programs resumed operations on campus in the fall of 2012. “Yale’s commitment to public service is a huge part of what brought ROTC back,” said Josh Clapper ’16, noting that the missions of ROTC and Yale dovetail. Both strive to equip students with the skills necessary to lead purposeful lives and contribute to the good of society, whether in an academic, professional, or military setting. “ROTC helps Yale stay true to her traditions by giving the opportunity to students to serve God, Country, and Yale,” Michael Herbert ’16 asserts. Beau Birdsall ’16 agreed, noting that Yale students lacked this opportunity for several decades. “It is important that those who are interested in serving their country through service in the military have an equal opportunity to obtain a Yale education,” he added. The presence of ROTC on campus broadens Yalies’ perspectives, say University officials, ROTC staff, and students. It enhances the diversity of opinions on which Yale prides itself and grounds students in reality beyond the “Yale bubble.” On the day when Yale’s ROTC

students began their fall semester classes this August, five soldiers in the United States-led coalition in Afghanistan were ambushed and killed. It was a stark reminder to the young officers in training that military service today is not an abstract notion. The men and women in Yale’s ROTC program had done more than begin the school year with a new extracurricular—they had committed to engage in military conflicts around the globe when their country called. Sam Cohen ’15, a midshipman in NROTC hailing from Maryland, embraces the program for exposing Yale students to the real world. He said, “ROTC on campus is a visible reminder that we are still at war, something that can be easy to forget when we get all caught up in our papers and exams and projects.” Before ROTC left campus, it enjoyed a close-knit relationship with Yale. “Service to our nation, and more particularly the military, has been a great tradition at Yale since her founding,” noted Drew Denno ’16. The ROTC’s office at 55 Whitney Avenue is decorated with pictures that document the history of ROTC at Yale: planes stored in Coxe Cage during World War II, young men engaged in earlymorning calisthenics on Old Campus during World War I, and students learning mechanics by assembling and disassembling a B-26 aircraft. The rift between Ivy League institutions and ROTC over the last several decades 25

The Politic - Spring 2013 I  
The Politic - Spring 2013 I