CSU Army ROTC cadets perform above national standard

Gabriel Go

This year, 30 cadets from the Ram Battalion will receive their commissions and become Army officers. Of the 30 cadets, 24 will commission in to active duty, while three will commission in the Army’s reserve components.

Cole Buschbacher, a junior majoring in sociology and criminology, takes notes during an ROTC lecture about ambushes on Tuesday. (Jon Price | Collegian)

Furthermore, 10 out of the 24 commissioning cadets are Distinguished Military Graduates and made the top 20 percent of all the Army’s cadets in the country, with two cadets landing in the top 10 percent nationally. Of these cadets, 16 received their top occupation choice in the various Army branches.

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These numbers put the Ram Battalion above the national average, according to department chair of military studies Maj. Troy Thomas, since only 50 percent of graduating cadets become eligible for active duty nationally.

Thomas might be the Ram Battalion’s department chair, but the 26-year officer and Army Ranger does not claim responsibility for the unit’s accomplishments. Instead, Thomas credits the cadets for contributing to a culture of success.

“(The senior cadets) essentially run the program through our guidance,” Thomas said. “It’s the culture of this program, not the individual instructors, that provides that. There’s a culture of success here, and it carries on in the cadets.”

The first two years of the ROTC program are spent on training and acclimating cadets to military life, but cadets are not obligated to join the Army at this point.

By their third year, cadets are given greater attention by their cadre as their studies progress and junior cadets are sent to a four-week training course in Fort Knox, Kentucky to be assessed on their overall progress.

There’s a culture of success here, and it carries on in the cadets.” Maj. Troy Thomas, Military Studies department chair

Junior cadets are taught small-unit tactics and the best applications of leadership, often supplemented by in-depth field exercises, which double as lab exercises, such as a mock scenario involving the fictional country “Atropia,” described as a dictatorship with a strong oil and natural gas industry embroiled in counter-insurgency operations alongside U.S. troops.

Orders are created by the senior cadets and the information is passed to the junior cadets, who oversee the platoons. Junior cadets must then disseminate the orders and formulate a plan of their own. If the orders indicate an enemy presence must be destroyed, the junior cadets must come up with a plan to defeat them along with the cadets under their command.

The junior cadets have some of the most responsibilities to the unit because the training intensifies during the third year. Juniors work closely with the younger cadets, effectively serving as their mentors and role models.

“It’s training on both sides,”said Bryce Strohecker, a senior cadet. “We’re learning how to operate a unit as a senior class … The younger cadets follow up on what our training collectively, as seniors came down to.”

Thomas said one of the biggest lessons he instills in his cadets is to trust each other.

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“What I tell my young cadets often is ‘Trust in the folks around you,’” Thomas said. “Learn from them and build your team.”

For junior cadet Cole Buschbacher, balancing academics and ROTC commitments can be difficult, but not without its rewarding moments.

“The discipline is a big factor of ROTC. I think that transfers over to academics as well,” Buschbacher said. “There are times when I’m up at 1 or 2 a.m. doing papers and I have to get up the next morning for (physical training) at 5:30 a.m., but it’s all part of the life. We’ll eventually be (doing) 13-14-hour days in the real Army, so at the very minimum it’s good practice.”

Buschbacher said one of his most profound experiences was mentoring a freshman cadet.

“It’s been nice to actually help him plan out his goals and actively work toward those goals as well,” Buschbacher said. “It’s just nice to see everything transfer down. The things I learned my freshman year, I can now use to help out the incoming freshmen and sophomores.”

Buschbacher added that the cadets also strive to be leaders on campus and not just within the unit.

“We’re college students too,” Buschbacher said. “We do (ROTC), but we’re personable and not all uptight.”

Collegian reporter Gabriel Go can be reached at news@collgian.com or on Twitter @rgabrielgo.