JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - A local university is in the crosshairs of the U.S. government after the Army decides to close 13 officer training programs across the country; one of those programs is at East Tennessee State University.
About eight months ago, ETSU learned the U.S. Army was looking at closing Reserve Officer Training Corps programs across the country. The Army says it's a way to be more efficient with resources and maintain ROTC programs in all 50 states.
School president Dr. Brian Noland got word Wednesday night that the Buccaneer Battalion was being axed by Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
In true Army fashion, ETSU plans to fight. "We will examine the metrics through which they made the decision and then we will work vigorously to defend the program," Noland told us.
222 students are currently enrolled in the military science program. 54 have already made a commitment to the United States Army Officer Corps and don't want to leave, even though the Army will allow freshman and sophomores to transfer.
Morgan Smith is a sophomore in the program. "No, I'm not playing that card. This is where I want to be. I compete with the Eddie Reed Ranger Challenge. This is where my heart is and where I'm trying to stay," she said.
Cadet Smith tells us she's going to try and finish her undergrad work a year early so she can be commissioned at ETSU.
There is plenty of disappointment in the Corps of Cadets, and in the school administration too. "It's a loss of part of your soul. ROTC is part of the fabric of this university. I had a chance to train with our cadets. They're more than students, these young men and women are leaders across campus," Noland said.
They are more than leaders -- they're a tight-knit group of future soldiers who've taken an oath to defend the country. "Honestly, we're a family and we're being torn apart," Smith told us.
It's a family with the backing of Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe. "I'm hopeful that through a concerted effort coordinated by Congressman Roe that we can show the caliber of excellence possessed by our cadets," Noland said.
And, hopefully, turn the tide of the Army back in favor of ETSU.
Dr. Noland says they will commission 15 cadets this school year, and another 20 in 2014, with the hope of commissioning 25 more by the program's end, which will coincide with the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year.