Published 1969 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Future Seems Secure for ROTC The U.S. Department of Defense reports that, despite the militant and sometimes violent opposition of campus radicals, Reserve Officer Training Corps programs are growing at American colleges. A spokesman at the Pentagon has assured me that the future of ROTC programs is "secure" and that "the actual number of programs and applications for programs has increased slightly in the past few years." At present, 365 colleges, including five in West Virginia, give students an opportunity to earn a commission in the Army, Navy, or Air Force. In addition, the Marine Corps has the Platoon Leaders' Course, which affords the same opportunity during the summer months. During the final two years of the four-year ROTC program, officer candidates are paid $50 per month, which helps to offset their college expenses. There are also several full scholarships available to promising high school students, thus enabling many of our finest young men to get a college education. But, more important than the benefits to the individual students are the benefits the country receives from ROTC programs. An estimated 33 percent of all Army officers currently on active duty were commissioned from the college campus, and 32 percent of our active Air Force officers are graduates of ROTC programs. Twelve percent of United States Naval officers received their commissions through ROTC. In 1968 alone, over 21,000 young Americans-including 167 from schools in West Virginia- received their commissions through ROTC programs. These men, whose military training has been built around their civilian lives, exemplify the true value of ROTC. The need for well-trained officers would not decrease by eliminating ROTC. But, without such a civilian-oriented program, the military would have to establish its own training programs to obtain its future leaders-programs that would be far removed from any semblance of civilian control. Many South American countries employ this method of training officers and the army that is produced has no ties whatsoever with the civilian population of the country. Obviously, there are inherent dangers in such a system. We must, in this free country of ours, always maintain a strong civilian-military relationship. ROTC is designed to do just that.