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From Dateline (December 2, 2004)

New Lieutenant Colonel Leads University ROTC Program

After serving 15 months in Iraq, Lt. Col. William K. Howard received new orders: Report to Southern California to take on responsibility for the ROTC program at Cal State Fullerton. As the battalion commander for the program, he reports not only to the university, but the U.S. Army as well. Howard, who has a master’s degree in information resource management, describes some of the challenges and opportunities he sees for the ROTC program at the university.


Q: How is the ROTC program structured here?

We have a cadre of eight, meaning six instructors and two support staff. Our instructors of military science teach everything from leadership and problem solving to management and physical fitness. Currently, we have 82 cadets in the program, although the numbers change as new students join the program and others graduate. Although most of the cadets are CSUF students, we also have cadets who are enrolled at Biola University, UCI and some of the local community colleges.


Q: Any student can enroll in military science courses without officially being a cadet?

Yes, some students enroll in the classes to see if ROTC is the right fit for them. However, if you are contracted with the ROTC program, you have to take at least nine classes in military science in addition to your other college classes. And, military science isn’t a major – all of our students are majoring in other areas such as business, history and education. If you can’t fit all of those classes into your schedule, we offer special “camp” programs that meet for several weekends or a week or two at a time. These are used in lieu of military academic requirements.


Q: With the war in Iraq, is it now more difficult to recruit students?

We’re always recruiting whether there’s a war or not. Certainly the war makes some students wary of ROTC but for others, it’s an incentive because they consider it part of their patriotic duty. Our goal is to increase the number of cadets in our program by 30 percent over the next two years.



What’s the benefit for students to be in an ROTC program?


The most obvious benefit is that we provide scholarships – not only school fees but textbook expenses. ROTC cadets also receive a stipend of $250 a month for freshman, $300 a month for sophomores, $350 a month for juniors and $400 a month for seniors.

In addition, we provide tutoring and counseling if needed. We work very closely with the students to prepare them for leadership roles. When students graduate from Cal State Fullerton or other universities, they begin their military careers as officers. [Laughing] Besides, who wouldn’t want to begin the day with 6 a.m. runs and grueling exercise?


Q: What do students have to promise in exchange?

They are commissioned for eight years. The Army doesn’t force students to go on active duty unless they sign up for the active duty scholarship – and many do, by the way. So, a cadet can choose whether he/she prefers active, reserve or National Guard duty.


Q: We hear about tours of duty being extended during the war. Could students who promise eight years have to serve longer?

I don’t think that’s going to happen.


Q: Tell me a little about your duty in Iraq.
A:  I had actually been stationed in Germany for two years with my family when I was called up to go to Iraq. My unit monitored the Baghdad Airport and I was a Blackhawk pilot. Although the helicopter I was in was shot at, we never went down. There were others that did, however. Much of our work concerned night operations.

Q: So I'm guessing that CSUF is a nice assignment for you?
A:  It’s been great. The administrators have been great to work with; the students are motivated; and my staff is wonderful. During the course of the school year, I am required to have at least one counseling session with each cadet, so I really get to know each student. And it’s great to see students take on leadership positions and develop.

Q: Are the exercise programs as hard as they say?
A: [Laughing] Well, if you’re not in shape now, you will be. Cadets have to participate at least three times a week, but many of them do it more often.