Danny Tyree: ROTC woes: Can the enrollment slide be reversed?
According to the Washington Post, nationwide enrollment in the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) has declined more than 16 percent in the past two school years.
The ROTC trains and commissions more than six of every 10 new Army officers each year, so this is a matter of grave concern.
The top Army brass is trying to put a positive spin on the shortage by stressing “quality over quantity.” Which, of course, is exactly what the enemy would do. (“I know the American forces are wandering around without enough leadership, but did you see the dissertation that officer wrote??? Anybody got a white flag ready, just in case?”)
Hollywood has certainly done its part to weaken the appeal of the ROTC program, as when ROTC graduates try to moonlight in the “Expendables” movies series. (“What? You’re a second-lieutenant? C’mon, you don’t even need to AUDITION.”)
Parents used to push their children toward the noble calling of the ROTC, but times have changed. (“Son, there are sinister forces out there. We’ll sleep better at night and your ancestors will look down on you with pride if you build up your courage and enlist in Anthropology of Indigenous Swiss Clockmakers.”)
General fear of committing a big chunk of one’s life to the military has played a role in making liberal arts majors more appealing. (“You know what they say, man: Why buy the cow when you can flip burgers for free?”)
The open-ended nature of 21st-century conflicts has given pause to many who would otherwise be ready for combat. The Pentagon has added to the problem by its perspective on subjects such as Europe’s Hundred Years’ War. They see it as a CHALLENGE. (“Pikers! We can last longer than that! America’s military: if it looks like a sitting duck and walks like a sitting duck...”)
Recent scandals at the Veterans Administration have tarnished the long-term benefits of military training and service. (“We hear you got pretty chummy with the school nurse back in high school. We’re sure you’ll get along splendidly with the VA nurses —unless they’re busy with paper cuts from the waiting lists.”)
Fears of micromanagement by the commander-in-chief have to play a role in the decline. (“We need boots on the ground — but those boots had better not leave any carbon footprints! I’m signing an executive order to require officers not to expel carbon dioxide during maneuvers.”)
We need creative ways to make officer training more attractive on campus (air assault training using school mascots?) or at least compensate for the shortage of commissioned officers. Maybe remote-controlled drone officers? Or customer support call centers for the enlisted men to consult? (“Yes, my name is John Smith. I am at your all-American service. How may I help you? Hey, can someone stop that sacred cow from wandering through the call center???”)
To be sure, the ROTC woes bring dancing in the streets from some quarters, specifically those anti-military agitators who enjoy seeing the hated recruiters get their comeuppance.
But, in a “be careful what you wish for” twist, they may come to regret not having a strong enough military to protect the American way of life from terrorists. (“Dancing in the street? That calls for a beheading. Eating barbecue? Ditto. Being alone with a man who is not your husband or a blood relative...”)
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.