Southern Utah State College's ROTC program has become a "casualty of peace," ironically just as war is looming in the Middle East.
Col. Thomas Ross, ROTC brigade commander from California, visited the SUSC campus this week to deliver a formal statement to President Gerald R. Sherratt that the school's ROTC program will be shut down at the end of the year.The news brought a wave of disappointment throughout the campus community at losing the highly rated program.
"Everyone's really disappointed," said Cadet 2nd Lt. James Tippetts, cadet executive officer of SUSC's ROTC detachment. "It's come as a surprise. We didn't think it would happen because we were an extension of the BYU program - basically a non-entity. We thought we would be overlooked."
Beginning its fourth year at SUSC under the command of Maj. Robert Lauritzen, the ROTC program has been operated through Brigham Young University. Because it was not a fully independent program yet, many had hoped it would be "overlooked" during the wave of military cutbacks that have followed the ending of the Cold War.
Capt. Kevin R. Miller, one of three Army instructors for the program, said the cutbacks are hitting ROTC especially hard. The cuts, mandated by Congress, mean that the Army's officer corps will be reduced from 120,000 to 95,000. A primary method of doing that, Miller said, will be to reduce the number of new lieutenants commissioned, many of whom are trained by ROTC.
About 100 ROTC programs will be eliminated across the country, including those at 50 universities such as University of Nevada Las Vegas, Idaho State, Oregon State and New Mexico Highlands, and the trend will be to consolidate programs onto the larger campuses. The same cutbacks are mandating that the Army be reduced in overall size from 750,000 personnel to 500,000.
Current plans call for compressing two years of ROTC into this academic year, in order for the current class to complete its work and graduate in its senior year.