The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) sits at a natural juncture between the military and society, operating on numerous college campuses across the country. ROTC Cadets are integrated into the broader university community while they train to be officers in the US Military. As universities begin the academic year, both the military services and university administrations should consider how they each can leverage ROTC to address the growing distance between military and society, and challenge young people’s reservations about the military.
While the military continues to be the most trusted institution in America, far beyond Congress or organized religion, a majority of Americans admit to knowing little about the military or the people who serve in it. Many issues that caused decades of rift between universities and the services (the Vietnam War, the draft, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) have passed, and ROTC has recently returned to a few elite universities. However, ROTC has been underutilized as a way to increase dialogue and learning between future military and civilian leaders. ROTC Cadets are de facto ambassadors of military values and military service, well placed to represent the military and challenge the civil-military divide.