Q&A with Robert Bruce, Army ROTC Squad Leader

Robert Bruce, a junior at Fordham University and squad leader/future second lieutenant in the United States Army, has strong opinions about Fordham’s Army ROTC program. Bruce has been in the program since the first days of his freshman year and has earned a full scholarship, continually going beyond what ROTC asks of him. The Army ROTC program is not one of the most well known groups on campus, though, so his and his comrades’ efforts sometimes go unnoticed. Seeking recognition, the organization has implemented a few events over the past several months to raise awareness. Bruce says that the program should try to enhance visibility, but he doesn’t necessarily believe the lack of visibility is detrimental to the success of the program. The program has continually produced top-flight soldiers, in his opinion, so it’s clear that the methods being implemented are working just fine.

What made you choose to do Army ROTC?

Well, I chose to do Army ROTC in college because, ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to serve as a leader in the military. There were a couple of ways of accomplishing that. One was going to West Point, but that kind of lifestyle was not for me. I wanted a civilian college experience. So, Army ROTC seemed like the perfect fit.

Why did you choose Fordham’s program over others?

Well, here’s the thing. Applying to college for me was more of a process than it was for non-ROTC people. I could only look at schools that offered ROTC programs, so that limited my options. The Army gave me full scholarships to two of the six schools I applied. Those schools were Fordham and Loyola University of Maryland. After weighing those two, it really came down to location and academic prestige.

What exactly does it mean to be a member of ROTC?

Being a member of ROTC means that you are both a student and a soldier. You exemplify balance between achieving academic and personal goals, as well as developing yourself professionally for your military career. Being an ROTC cadet is being a part of something that’s much greater than yourself.

About how many cadets are in the program, and how many are women?

Um, about 150 or 160. And a very low percentage. I would say maybe 15 to 20 total [are women].

Why do you think there aren’t as many women, and what could you do to boost their participation?

I think the Armed Services in general attract more males than females. I think it’s a male dominated profession given the nature of it—the physical rigor, the combat-forward mission, and the career paths. So I think that, traditionally, it attracts fewer women. As far as increasing participation in the program—that’s a tough one. You see, the Army doesn’t function based on a certain ratio of males to females. The Army is a meritocracy. The job that a male can do, if the female is equally qualified, she can do just as well—providing it’s not combat. Although, that may change as well. Females may be doing combat roles if they meet certain standards in the future. I don’t know if there’s an active approach to recruit more females. Not because we’re opposed to having them, but because we’re really looking more towards increasing our numbers in general—regardless of where it comes from.

Why doesn’t every cadet contract and get a scholarship?

If you apply for a scholarship prior to coming to the University, the Army will examine your credentials. Similar to a college application, they will see whether your grades warrant a scholarship. This is, of course, based on how many scholarships they can give that year. Based on that, you might be awarded a two, three, or four-year scholarship. Some have the ability to work for scholarships if they didn’t apply for one, but not all are guaranteed. That being said, just because you’ve contracted, you have to maintain a 2.0 GPA and certain physical fitness requirements to keep it.

What separates a top-notch cadet from a bottom-rung cadet?

Top cadets embody three things—academic excellence, physical fitness excellence and, for lack of a better term, excellence in leadership. Academic excellence is obvious. A top cadet will maintain a competitive GPA of 3.5 or higher. They will be constantly looking to improve their physical fitness scores—if not maxing out the categories. And, they’re leaders. Leaders not only in ROTC, but also on campus and in the classroom. They get involved in the college experience, and achieve a balance. Someone who is only here to do the bare minimum is a low-level cadet. It really shows.

Which schools feed into the Fordham battalion?

The Fordham battalion is broken down into three companies. Alpha Company encompasses all the schools in the Bronx. Rose Hill is where the battalion headquarters is. We meet, train and have classes here on campus. SUNY Maritime, Iona College, Manhattanville, Lehman College and Monroe all send their cadets here. Bravo Company is all of the schools in Manhattan—NYU, Columbia and all the rest. They are stationed out of Lincoln Center and do all of their activities in Central Park. And then Charlie Company is Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Those three companies make up the Fordham ROTC Ram Battalion.

Is the Ram Battalion considered a high-ranking program?

The Ram Battalion is actually a very well respected program. We are one of the best programs in the country in terms of the cadets and officers we produce. In fact, we were one of the first ROTC programs ever. We have been consistently setting the standard since.

The ROTC program isn’t exactly well known here by prospective students and families. What strides are being made to counteract that?

Well, it’s no secret that ROTC is not recognized. We recognize that as an organization, and we have new leadership with the goal to combat that. For instance, usually our freshman orientation consists of a weeklong training exercise at Camp Smith, New York. This year, our orientation was a daylong event held on Eddy’s. We brought humvee’s and a rock wall in; we served food, and even did some training on campus. It was a dual-concept event. We were able to introduce the new cadets to the program, while also increasing our visibility. We also do color guard at various sporting events, and our battalion is always introduced beforehand.

Does it upset you that the ROTC program isn’t more visible?

It’s not upsetting because, at the end of the day, ROTC has a mission. Their mission is to train cadets to become the best possible 2nd Lieutenants after they graduate. It’s not so much upsetting given that we’re not a recruiting contingent. We’re not here to show off. We have training that needs to get done and, frankly, New York City and Rose Hill aren’t always conducive to that training. On a practical level, it’s kind of necessary that we aren’t well known. Our training often needs to take place in recluse areas. It would be nice, though, if we could do things that increase our presence a bit.

What are some of the most valuable skills you’ve learned in ROTC?

There’s a host of things I’ve learned. Probably the most valuable would be time management. College students are already burdened with the stresses of being a college student. Throw ROTC responsibilities on top of that, and you’re pretty much forced into learning time management. Balancing PT three days a week, training exercises twice a semester, a full slate of classes on Wednesdays, homework and a social life becomes difficult without this. The ability to motivate people and give them a sense of purpose is a gift and an art. Being a leader is also a great skill I’ve learned.

Where do you see yourself stationed in five years?

Ideally, I’d like to be stationed on the East Coast—preferably in New York City.

In which division of the Army?

I’m looking to branch either in the Finance Corps or Logistics Corps. I’m an economics major, so finance is naturally an interest of mine. Right now, I’m leaning towards either of the two.

If you could give incoming freshmen cadets any advice regarding ROTC, what would it be?

Be a sponge. There is going to be a ton of information coming down from people who know a lot more than you do. Take in as much of it as you can. Retain that knowledge. It will be extremely useful going forward.

Thanks so much for your time, Robert. I appreciate the wisdom.

Anything to spread the word.