Military cuts mean US Army ROTC cadets face tougher competition - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Military cuts mean US Army ROTC cadets face tougher competition

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

On Tuesday, president Obama presented Congress with his proposed $3.9 trillion budget.

$500 billion, or about one-eighth, of that proposed budget is allocated to the US military.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced last week his proposal to reduce the size of the active duty Army by about 15 percent, from its current size of 522,000 soldiers down to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers. That would be the smallest the US Army has been since before WWII.

A reduction in the size of the active duty Army would mean a reduction in the number of active duty officer positions - and, therefore, more competition among those who want one.

Getting up before 6 a.m. isn't easy for most people, but the 45 cadets of the University of Dubuque's US Army ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) program do it four times a week, for physical training.

For all their hard work, however, some of these cadets might not get placed in active duty like they want, upon graduation. A shrinking military means fewer active duty officer positions and more cadets may be placed in the US Army Reserves or Iowa Army National Guard, instead.

Retired Col. Dan Kammiller helps run UD's ROTC program and has overseen it since its inception in 2001. He retired from active duty in 2005, after more than 33 years. He said he's very clear with prospective students who show an interest in the ROTC program.

"There's no guarantee in anything that you're going to get. There's not even a guarantee that you're going to go active duty," Kammiller said Tuesday in his office on the UD campus. "There's no guarantee you're going to get the branch you want."

Ian Flood is a senior and in his fourth year of UD's ROTC program. Kammiller said Flood is a good cadet but a product of the changing times. The cadet was close to getting put in active duty upon graduation, but tougher standards meant he will graduate and go into the reserves instead.

"This is a good eye-opener for our younger classmen," Flood said Tuesday morning at physical training, "because for me and the other seniors, we've already got ours set, but this is really pushing (the younger classmen) to become better."

"The four people that didn't get active duty in our senior class, they're going to the Army Reserve," Kammiller said, adding a strong US Army Reserves component and Iowa Army National Guard are key to a strong US military, overall. "You're going to need a strong reserve component if you're going to cut the active duty parts."

Whether a cadet goes active duty or into the reserves is determined the summer before his or her senior year, at a national, multi-week event called the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC). There, all the US Army ROTC cadets in the nation are given points for performance in various areas and then ranked. The US Army selects active duty officers based on those results.

"It used to be you had to have 75 points to go active duty," Kammiller said. "The junior class right now that's going to go out to the Leader Development and Assessment Course this summer, they have to have 80 points, so (the Army is) kind of upping the ante if you want to go active duty, and, of course, if you don't make that, then you go reserve component."

"We already produce really good officers out of this (ROTC) program," Flood said, "but this is even pushing (the younger classmen) harder, because it is getting harder and harder."

Kammiller said ROTC scholarship availability reflects the changing needs of the Army.

"When we first went into Afghanistan, Iraq, I mean, the numbers were going up," Kammiller said. "There was one year we had 15 four-year scholarships that come in here, you know, and now we have zero."

He said it's not uncommon for the military to decrease in size following a conflict.

"If you looked at history, I mean, that happens every time," Kammiller said. "We get out of Vietnam in the 70s, it dropped."

Consequently, that means the Army can be more selective now that it faces reductions.

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