Letter to the Editor: ROTC poses no threat to campus

In response to Professor Murray Forman’s letter last week (“Militarization of campus unwelcome,” Jan. 17) I would like to thank the professor for alerting us to a potential misunderstanding and address his legitimate concerns for the public safety of students and faculty.

Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) does not use real weapons in training on this campus at any time. The weapons in the photos from the Jan. 9 issue of The Voice are mock-ups – what we refer to as “rubber ducks.” They are facsimile M16s, used in training to simulate real weapons so ROTC Cadets learn the proper techniques for carrying and safely handling weapons from the outset of their leadership training. At no time were any Northeastern students or faculty in danger, and nothing the Department of Military Science is doing to train officers for the U.S. Army here at Northeastern compromises existing university policies or rules.

The Department of Military Science works closely with campus Public Safety and the Office of Institutional Audit, Compliance and Risk Management whenever we believe our training on campus will impact Northeastern students, faculty, facilities or open spaces. The “Cabot Cage” room is generally isolated from the rest of Cabot, making it an ideal location for us to perform our training without disrupting the campus. On the infrequent occasions that we conduct military training exercises outdoors in open view, we display large signs that say “ARMY ROTC Training with Simulated Weapons.” In these instances, we also use campus information systems, like “NU Announcements,” to alert the campus in advance.

The on-campus training program of Army ROTC is focused on leadership, academics (classroom instruction) and morning physical fitness workouts. The majority of our tactical military training occurs 2-3 times a semester off campus at nearby federal or state military reservations. The on-campus ROTC curriculum does include a “leadership laboratory,” routinely conducted once a week on Thursday mornings from 6 to 7:30 a.m. The photos in question were an example of one of these lab exercises. Our students routinely wear uniforms on campus once a week to foster pride and esprit de corps, and project awareness of our presence amidst the campus population. This has been our practice for many years now.

Army ROTC Cadets have been a part of the Northeastern campus since the early 1950s. This year, we will commission 18 students from Northeastern, Boston College and Wentworth Institute as new Second Lieutenants in America’s Army. The recent photos in The Voice, as well as articles our Cadets write or events we conduct on campus are meant to remind the wider campus audience that Northeastern’s mission continues to include the training of military officers – thus meeting a critical need for the nation’s (all-volunteer) military. Northeastern is one of 272 such Army ROTC host universities nationwide, fulfilling this important educational obligation.

Professor Forman’s letter is indicative of our great democracy at work: citizens able and willing to engage in public debate, unafraid to raise questions about the environment they live and work in. These freedoms we all enjoy come at a price. The broader implications of the questions he raises, and his right to raise them, are what the great ROTC Cadets here at Northeastern are training to defend when they graduate.

I am always happy to discuss the benefits of the Army ROTC program with any interested students or faculty, and can be reached on campus at 617-373-7480, or at the department offices located at 335A Huntington Ave. – just look for the red awning next to the tanning salon.

Train To Lead!

– Lieutenant Colonel John McClellan is a Professor of Military Science for the Northeastern University Army ROTC.

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