It was a big day for seniors at East Tennessee State University who are also cadets in the college's ROTC program, and it comes as a sigh of relief for the underclassmen.
Friday marked the transition from cadet to second lieutenant as seniors in ETSU's ROTC program were commissioned, but it's also a celebration for the undergrads. "The experiences our seniors got this year, we as juniors would not have gotten that next year because all of the underclassmen would have been gone at that point," says Parker Moore.
Moore is a junior at ETSU; he tells us he's thankful the program didn't close. In October 2013, the Army decided to shut down 13 ROTC programs across the US, and ETSU's program was one on the chopping block. "We didn't act like we were closing. We just kept going forward," adds Moore.
That attitude is probably what saved the program.
A month later, officials decided to continue the programs for two years under probation. One requirement is that the program must graduate at least 15 officers each year. "We've got 14 total that we'll commission over the course of this year, and then over the next two years we've got over 20," says Daniel Bishop, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and professor of military science at ETSU.
Bishop tells us that goal will be easy for their program to reach.
We learned this is the biggest the ROTC program has been in 25 years, and Bishop says the seniors have been key. "They really have served as leaders here at ETSU through all of this, and largely they are responsible for a lot of the success we're enjoying now," he said.
ROTC junior Jared Walls tells us he's thankful the program is no longer on the closure list, because this program gives the cadets so many opportunities. "It really allows people from this area to get out and stand on the world stage and to be leaders, not only in the country, but internationally, and make a global change, " he said.
Bishop tells us the majority of lieutenants in the Army come from ROTC programs just like theirs.
He says the community's support for the program was overwhelming, and they are appreciative.