The decision announced in October 2013 to close ETSU’s ROTC program was reversed in December 2014, and the ROTC program will stay at ETSU with some small changes.
“We’re still commissioning quality cadets out of here,” said John Wasik, ROTC recruiting operations officer at ETSU. “It’s forced us to be a little more selective, and that’s probably a good thing, you always want the best [recruits] with you.”
Wasik said many of the program’s cadets had to decide whether they should transfer elsewhere or continue their training at ETSU.
“Are the cadets going to stay here and finish up?” Wasik said.
“Are we going to try to find them somewhere to go? It was going to be case-by-case as each cadet was different.”
Thirteen schools were selected by the secretary of defense to close down their ROTC programs. Three of those schools were in Tennessee.
ETSU had planned to fast-track its juniors and seniors in the program, enabling them to graduate by the time that the university closed the program. However, freshmen and sophomores would have had to find other options.
“It was causing a lot of heartache for the cadets,” Wasik said. “I think the university and the alumni were part of the reason the decision got reversed.”
This decision reversal could be attributed to alumni that likely contacted politicians linked to the cancellation of the program and requested that they reconsider the decision.
“We have some very established alumni that have graduated from here,” Wasik said. “I don’t know, it’s above me, but I think there were some phone calls made that heavily influenced this decision.”
Wasik also said ETSU President Brian Noland had a great deal to do with the decision reversal.
“I don’t know the specifics, but I know there was a letter written by President Noland to the secretary of defense,” Wasik said.
Since the decision was made in 2013, Noland said he would do whatever possible to preserve ETSU’s ROTC program.
“We have had our total mission [of commissioning cadets] reduced by 10 to 15 percent,” Wasik said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.”
Wasik said decisions like this usually have a fiscal motive.
“It always comes down to money,” Wasik said. “It’s above my pay grade, but it’s safe to say that most decisions made at this level are about money.”
As a result of the changes, the program will be more selective in the future.
“We’re going to be stricter about who gets through,” Wasik said. “I have to look at each person who comes through here and think, ‘If I had a boy or a girl, would I want this person with him in a combat situation?’ and I have to answer yes or no to that.”