Army ROTC at St. Mary’s

Army ROTC is a college elective that focuses on leadership and management training. St. Mary’s Army ROTC offers students the opportunity to learn and grow in a variety of ways.

The program of instruction challenges each cadet in the battalion in both indoor and outdoor settings; cadets participate in classroom instruction while also engaging in world-class physical fitness training, land navigation, marksmanship, rappelling and other military activities.

Cadets learn management and leadership skills not available in other University programs. Army ROTC is a training ground for tomorrow’s leaders. Although ROTC is a military-oriented program, the value of its training is recognized by business leaders. Studies have shown that ROTC graduates have a definite advantage when seeking employment in the civilian sector of the economy.

What is ROTC?

Want to learn more about the program that more than 40,000 students made a part of their total college experience last year? Let’s start with the basics.

Reserve Officer Training Corps., or ROTC, combines courses in military science with summer training sessions to turn college students into top-quality Army officers. The classes are available at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the nation. ROTC is a college elective course — not an academic course load. Overall, ROTC classes normally occupy about four hours a week, leaving plenty of time for other classes and an active social life.

The St. Mary’s University Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program, established in 1932, has commissioned 1,702 officers (as of Spring 2020) for our Army. The program has a long timeline of excellence and continues to be a training ground for tomorrow’s leaders.

Prior to the National Defense Act of 1916, military training occurred primarily at land grant institutions established by the Morrill Act of 1862. The Morrill Act stipulated that each land-grant institution would provide instruction in military tactics as part of its engineering and agriculture curriculum. When the Civil War ended in 1865, the benefits of the Morrill Act were extended to former Confederate States of America, including Texas, thus allowing for the creation of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, now Texas A&M University, in 1876. From 1876 until World War I, formal military instruction was generally only available at the major state-funded institutions of Texas (Texas A&M and the University of Texas), and even at those schools, it was not formalized under U.S. Army control until 1916.

The National Defense Act of 1916 formalized the establishment of Reserve Officers Training Corps programs at civilian colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Immediately following the NDA and in the feverish effort to produce men and materiel for the war effort in Europe, the War Department selected 28 Texas colleges and universities to participate in the Students Army Training Corps (SATC) program. Approved by Congress on Aug. 31, 1918, the SATC program was an agreement between the U.S. Department of War and American educators to prevent the U.S. Department of War’s conscription efforts from further depleting the number of 18-year-old males entering universities in the fall of 1918.

The only SATC program available in San Antonio was at the West Texas Military Academy, the predecessor to the Texas Military Institute. The SATC program was short-lived and disbanded upon signing of the armistice that ended World War I. The SATC program was again replaced with ROTC, yet formal college-level military instruction would not be available in San Antonio for another 14 years.

In 1932, St. Mary’s University established a “Section 55-c unit” of ROTC. The National Defense Act of 1916, as amended in 1921, allowed the Secretary of War (predecessor to the Secretary of the Army) to support military instruction at civilian colleges and universities where no formal ROTC unit existed. Though these “55-c units” were not formal ROTC programs, they were still supported by the U.S. Department of War with detailed officers, enlisted soldiers, and equipment to conduct proper military training.

The U.S. Army detailed 1st Lt. William E. Cox to serve as the first professor of military science and tactics at St. Mary’s. The 55-c unit was formally dedicated on March 20, 1932 on the University’s baseball field and commissioned its first reserve officer, A. Ransome Marlowe, on Dec. 5, 1932. Between 1932 and 1942, St. Mary’s commissioned just 39 officers. One of these graduates, Cadet Joseph J. Cody Jr., class of 1941, would become the first St. Mary’s University Army ROTC graduate to achieve the rank of general officer and another, Cadet Rodolfo Vargas, class of 1942, would be the first graduate killed in WWII. Due to World War II, the St. Mary’s University Army ROTC program was closed in 1942, but many St. Mary’s graduates, both former cadets and civilian students, served in World War II.

In 1947, the Marianist Brothers of St. Mary’s petitioned the U.S. Army for the formation of a formal Army ROTC program to “educate the whole man. The totality of this intellectual goal demands that we treat with man’s many needs: the practical as well as the theoretical, the worldly as well as the spiritual, the body as well as the mind. Mens sana in corpore sano.” (5 May, 1969, speech given by The Very Reverend Louis J. Blume, S.M., President, St. Mary’s University.) On April 25, 1947, the ROTC program was re-established as a Field Artillery program by General Order #91 under the Professor of Military Science, Col. Bryan Milburn. From its reopening, St. Mary’s required all male students to participate in ROTC instruction for their first two years of school. Since the GI Bill made college attendance feasible for returning veterans, the student population of St. Mary’s, and thus the ROTC program, grew.

During the Vietnam War, students resisted the requirement to join ROTC and petitioned the University leadership to reduce the requirement. On May 5, 1969, the President of St. Mary’s University, Rev. Louis J. Blume, reduced the ROTC requirement for male students to one year beginning in fall 1969. In 1971, he eliminated the requirement altogether and ROTC enrollment dropped to its lowest levels since 1942.

In the fall of 1972, the U.S. Congress opened all ROTC programs to female students. Since female cadets could not commission into the Field Artillery at the time, the St. Mary’s ROTC program began offering the General Military Science program in 1975 in order to commission officers, including women, into branches other than Field Artillery. The first female cadet battalion commander in the nation was Cadet Karen Pospisil, the St. Mary’s University Battalion Commander in 1976.

In addition to enrolling women, St. Mary’s Army ROTC grew with the establishment of a cross-enrollment agreement with the University of Texas at San Antonio on May 20, 1975. As the UTSA program grew, it achieved Extension Center status on Nov. 13, 1979, and it remained a part of the St. Mary’s program until Jun. 14, 1982, when it earned Host Program status.

From 1982 to 1991, there were three ROTC host programs in San Antonio — St. Mary’s, UTSA, and Trinity University. With the downsizing of the military following the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Army decided to close 50 ROTC programs nationwide, including the program at Trinity University in 1991. With the Trinity program’s closure, St. Mary’s University established ROTC cross-enrollment agreements with both Trinity University and the University of the Incarnate Word, so that those students could continue to pursue army officer commissions through St. Mary’s.

In 2009, St. Mary’s established a cross-enrollment agreement with the newly formed Texas A&M University at San Antonio (TAMUSA). St. Mary’s commissioned six officers through TAMUSA between 2009 and 2014. On Aug. 28, 2014, the TAMUSA ROTC program became part of the UTSA ROTC program.

Today, the St. Mary’s University Army ROTC program enrolls cadets from affiliate programs at St. Philip’s College, Trinity University, and Our Lady of the Lake University, a partner program at the University of the Incarnate Word, and the host program at St. Mary’s University.

History of ROTC at St. Mary’s University
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ROTC Courses

For most ROTC students, called cadets, it takes a total of four years to complete ROTC. During the Basic Course, the first two years of ROTC, cadets tackle subjects like military history, first aid and customs of the Army. There is a constant emphasis on leadership development. While enrolled in the Basic Course, cadets normally do not have to make a commitment to serve in the Army. The final two years of ROTC, called the Advanced Course, is the first point at which most cadets must make a commitment to serve.

In both the Basic and Advanced Course, uniforms, textbooks and all required items of equipment are furnished at no extra cost. Additionally, there are merit-based scholarships available. These scholarships can go a long way towards financing the cost of getting a college education.

Basic Course

For students who did not take ROTC during their first two years of college, a compressed version of the Basic Course is available each summer. This 29-day training session, called Leader’s Training Course (LTC), gives students a condensed version of the subjects normally taught on campus during the first two years of ROTC. While in attendance at LTC, students receive a salary, the full cost of their housing, transportation and meals provided by the Army.

It is important to note that students have no obligation to serve in the Army just because they decide to attend LTC. However, successful completion of LTC does give students the skills and credentials necessary for enrollment in the Advanced Course.

Leader’s Training Course

To ensure that they become well-rounded leaders, cadets in the Advanced Course study subjects as diverse as math reasoning and human behavior. Practical experience at supervising others is gained at weekly training sessions called Leadership Labs. They gain insight into the multi-faceted challenges of leadership through a detailed study of military history and prepare themselves for the future with courses in computer literacy.

Pulling together all the elements they’ve learned, cadets attend a Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), for a 29-day summer session between their junior and senior years. The training is tough and the hours are long at LDAC but, with its completion, cadets move ever closer to their goal of becoming Army officers.

The reward for all the hard work comes on graduation day – when cadets leave their alma mater as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. Many of these newly commissioned officers will immediately begin service in the Army. Others will fulfill their military obligation as citizen-soldiers, through service in the Army National Guard or the Army Reserve.

Advanced Course

Through cross-enrollment agreements, students in the following San Antonio Area colleges and universities can participate fully in the St. Mary’s ROTC program.

  • University of the Incarnate Word
  • Our Lady of the Lake University
  • Trinity University
  • San Antonio College
  • St. Phillip’s College

These cross-enrollment agreements allow the benefits of the ROTC curriculum and scholarship opportunities to be extended to students of these institutions. Students from colleges that are members of the Alamo Colleges system generally may take an introductory ROTC course free of charge. These students are also encouraged to seek ROTC scholarships as an additional way to afford tuition in one of the San Antonio universities offering ROTC through St. Mary’s University.

Cross Enrollment Program

ROTC Activities

A select group of cadets representing St. Mary’s University ROTC Military Science Department participate in various campus and community ceremonies. This group has even participated in several San Antonio Spurs’ games.

Color Guard

Cadets field athletic teams that compete against other University students in a wide variety of sports.

Intramural Sports

This is an outdoor-oriented unit for those students looking for extra military and physical training. They meet on campus once a week and hold a few one-day field training exercises using National Guard and Reserve facilities.

Marian Guard

Several social events are held throughout the school year including a Military Ball, cadet parties, and recreational activities.

Social Activities

Training Opportunities

With each week comes different types of training designed to teach you how to parachute out of airplanes and helicopters. It is an exciting, nonstop course that will push you to the limit.

Airborne Training

Filling the need for special arctic warfare training is the United States Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC). An exclusive school that provides training in arctic survival, navigation of land and waterways, military skiing, mountaineering and river crossing operations. The school trains not only active duty soldiers but soldiers from other services, reserve soldiers, ROTC, West Point cadets and allied military soldiers. Emphasis during the summer is placed on mountain warfare while the winter months are used to train soldiers on how to adapt to living in the field, clothing use and maintenance, as well as snowshoeing and military skiing. NWTC is also the home of the Army Mountaineering Team. Each year the team joins soldiers from allied countries to attempt a multinational friendship climb up Mount McKinley.

Northern Warfare Training

Mountain Warfare School is a two-week course conducted at the Ethan Allen Firing Range at Jericho, Vt. Both a summer and a winter phase are offered. Its mission is to develop and conduct resident mountain warfare training under both summer and winter conditions. The mountain warfare course develops the leadership and technical skills of Army personnel by requiring them to perform mountaineering tasks in a realistic tactical mountain environment. It provides the student with the practical hands-on experience in the application of tactics and techniques needed for mountain operations.

Mountain Warfare Training

Air Assault training is available at different Army posts across the country. It is a 10- to 12-day course consisting of physical training, sling load training, rappelling, and a 12-mile timed road march in full combat gear.

Air Assault Training

CTLT increases each cadet’s leadership experience. Each cadet is assigned to a platoon leader position and given an opportunity to lead soldiers. It familiarizes cadets with the command, training, administration and logistical functions of active duty units. It also exposes cadets to the on-duty and off-duty environment of the junior officer.

Cadet Troop Leader Training (CTLT)

Simultaneous Membership Program at St. Mary’s

The Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) allows you to participate in ROTC and enlist in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve at the same time, provided a vacancy exists in either a Guard or Reserve unit. While you’re still in college, you can be gaining valuable experience and earning extra income.

You’ll serve as an officer trainee in a Guard and Reserve unit and perform duties commensurate with the grade of second lieutenant. Once you graduate and are commissioned, you may continue your military service with your unit or apply for active duty.

Upon completion of Basic Training, a Reserve Component (RC) Soldier who is an academic junior, can join the Advanced ROTC program and earn a commission as an officer in the United States Army while completing their college degree. In addition, contracted non-scholarship cadets and Reserve Forces Duty (RFD) scholarship cadets can join a Reserve Component unit and the SMP.

The intent of the SMP is to increase officer accession into the RC by increasing ROTC enrollment from enlisted RC members who are attending college.

  • Future Reserve and Active Duty officers
  • A Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty (GRFD) option
  • An opportunity for Guard and Reserve units to select future Reserve officers
  • ROTC cadets who can assume officer responsibilities while serving in Reserve Component units
What does the SMP provide?

Upon completion of the ROTC program, the officer has an eight-year obligation that can be served in the Reserve Forces, on Active Duty, or a combination of the two.

What is the commitment?

Anyone who:

  • Has completed Basic Training or equivalent
  • Has junior standing at his/her school
  • Is physically qualified
  • Is under 30 years of age when commissioned (waivered through age 34)
  • Nursing students have to be less than 41 by Dec. 31 of your graduation year
  • Has a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 grade scale
  • Has four years left on current military obligation
  • Is a full-time student
  • U.S. citizen
Who is eligible?
  • An opportunity to gain a commission while going to college and to serve in a Reserve Component Unit
  • Hands-on management and leadership training
  • A ROTC stipend plus E-5 pay while at drill
  • Annual Training and LDAC pay
  • Montgomery GI Bill and Tuition Assistance
  • An opportunity to win a two-year RFD scholarship
  • A future as an officer on Active Duty or Reserve Duty
  • Opportunity for volunteer training in Airborne, Air Assault, Northern or Mountain Warfare Training
What is SMP to the Individual?


Interested in joining ROTC at St. Mary’s? Consult this list of frequently asked questions. If you still have questions, contact our office.

Students who enroll in ROTC don’t join the Army. They take an ROTC class for which they receive credit. It’s considered a college elective.

By enrolling in ROTC are you joining the Army?

ROTC cadets go directly to college where they earn their degree.

Is ROTC like boot camp?

ROTC cadets spend their time like typical college students. The course consists of a classroom lecture two times a week, a lab once a week, and one weekend per semester for a field training exercise (FTX).

How much time does ROTC take up weekly?

Simply, the leadership and management skills needed to become a U.S. Army officer or to have a successful civilian career. During the Basic Course, your studies will include basic leadership development, basic military skills, adventure training, and life skills. During the Advanced Course, your studies will include advanced leadership skills, management skills, advanced tactics and Army ethics.

What can students expect to learn by taking ROTC?

Students in ROTC learn through a unique program that involves both classroom and live situations. For instance, an ROTC cadet might be found leading classmates through adventure training.

What makes ROTC different from regular college management courses?

During the first two years, ROTC cadets have no military obligation (or the first year in the case of scholarship winners). If you decide to continue with ROTC for a third and forth year, there is a military obligation after graduation.

Is there a military obligation during college?

Following graduation, ROTC cadets are required to serve in the active Army, Army National Guard or the Army Reserve. All scholarship students will be required to serve in the military for a period of eight years. This obligation may be fulfilled by serving two to four years on active duty, followed by four to six years service as citizen soldiers in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve, or by serving eight years in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve preceded by the period necessary to complete the active component resident officer basic course.

Non-scholarship students may serve three years on active duty and five years as citizen soldiers, or they may select or be selected to fulfill their total military obligation as citizen soldiers. If Reserve Forces duty is selected, graduates will serve a period of active duty necessary to complete the active component officer basic course, and spend the remaining eight-year obligation in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve.

What is the military obligation after graduation from college?

ROTC is divided into phases. The Basic Course teaches Army history, organization and structure. Techniques and principles of leadership and management are stressed throughout this phase. The Advanced Course concentrates on tactical operations and military instruction, as well as advanced techniques of management, leadership and command.

What is the ROTC course comprised of?

Yes. Each year hundreds of students attending colleges nationwide receive ROTC scholarships. ROTC awards them to students studying science, engineering, nursing, business, as well as a variety of other majors.

ROTC scholarships are awarded on merit. Merit is exhibited in academic achievement and extracurricular activities, such as sports, student government or part-time work.

Does Army ROTC offer scholarships?

Anyone can enroll in ROTC, regardless of whether you are a scholarship winner or not. All ROTC books, supplies and equipment are furnished at no cost to you.

Can only scholarship winners enroll in ROTC?

In college and after graduation, cadets find that the training and experience they receive are assets — whether pursuing an Army or civilian career. Employers place high regard on the management and leadership skills cadets acquire in the ROTC program. ROTC experience looks great on a résumé. When cadets complete the ROTC course and graduate, they become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army.

How do students benefit from Army ROTC?

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