ROTC graduates undeterred by crisis, conflict abroad

By Stephanie Shore

Almost three months after commencement, many Northeastern graduates are still looking for jobs. But the search wasn’t as difficult for seven seniors, who found themselves with post-graduation plans two days before receiving their diploma. Within a year, any of them could be in combat.

On May 5, then-Northeastern seniors Rebecca Babcock, Erin Baker, Felix Chan, Adam D’Ortona, Paul Ethier, Jared Krantz-Odendahl and Scott Krasko were commissioned and sworn in as second lieutenants in the Army. The seven students participated in Northeastern’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

“If you signed up knowing that you most likely, upon commissioning, are going to end up in a war, your personal sense of perseverance would be strong from the onset,” said John Power, president of the Northeastern Alumni Association and a retired Army colonel.

Northeastern has had an ROTC program on campus since 1950. The program has commissioned officers since 1955. Power said it has a reputation for being one of the strongest and most long-standing in a region where many schools removed their ROTC programs during the 1960s.

“I think it’s indicative that Northeastern has tried to maintain a balanced perspective on issues around military, politics and war,” said John Portz, a professor and the chair of Northeastern’s political science department. “One of the things we want to support is open discussion and open dialogue on issues that are before the political community.”

Participating students must attend physical training three times a week, take a military science class once a semester, attend a weekend-long Field Training Exercise once a semester, and pass a four-week Leadership Assessment and Development Course, according to the program’s Web site.

ROTC becomes a lifestyle, said Babcock, a psychology major who will be going on to the Medical Service Corps in the Army Reserves.

“We say it’s like being in a fraternity or a sorority,” Babcock said. “It’s a social group. It’s fun. Everybody bonds.”

But the fun and games may taper off now that the graduates are second lieutenants. Participants said the rigor will only increase.

“I’ll probably have 30 to 40 soldiers that I’m responsible for – not just their training and their ability to fight and win a battle, but also their families and their personal well-being,” said Scott Krasko, a criminal justice major who will be entering the Infantry branch.

These positions will most likely be deployed to another country and possibly going to war. Despite the uncertain future, Northeastern’s second lieutenants are not intimidated.

“I could spend an entire year in Iraq and come home safe and sound and then the next day be killed in a car accident,” Krantz-Odendahl said. “My personal opinion is that you never know what’s going to happen to you tomorrow, so you just have to live your life today as you see fit. For me that means serving our country as an Army officer.”

Krasko is more skeptical.

“I’m excited to get started, but it’s like anything else,” he said

A college education can be applied to a military career in different ways. Adam D’Ortona, who received a degree in history and will be joining the Infantry branch, will be using his knowledge to assist in his decision-making.

“Being a leader in the Army, it helps to have a good sense of history, especially military history, so you can know what your enemies have done in the past and what they might do in the future,” he said. “History repeats itself.”

Krantz-Odendahl sees the decision to remain with or leave the Army after his service obligation as a win-win situation.

“Should I decide a career in the Army isn’t for me,” he said, “I will have been given a wealth of training and leadership abilities that will serve me well in the civilian world.”

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