Sacramento State's Army Reserve Officers Training Corps program has won a national excellence award as the most outstanding battalion in the nation, beating out hundreds of other programs to receive the honor.
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Donald Hill was presented with the gold MacArthur ROTC Leadership Award at the Professors of Military Science conference in Reno on Nov. 5.
The MacArthur Foundation's honor gives annual recognition to the most outstanding battalion of 270 ROTC programs nationwide. It is the highest award a program can obtain, and the first time in history the Sac State Army ROTC has received it.
The award is named after the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur who died in 1964, and is considered one of the great military figures in history. The ROTC program is located in the public service building and is a detachment center for the main ROTC program, which is, located on campus at UC Davis.
President Donald Gerth kicked the ROTC off campus because their "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays and lesbians violated the state university's anti-discrimination policy, which forbids bias on the basis of sexual orientation. But in 1997, faced with the possibility of losing $50 million in student aid and research funds, Gerth grudgingly allowed the groups back on campus.
Now, six years later, the ROTC is bringing recognition to the university in Gerth's final year as president.
Second Lt. Jonathan Pedroza said the MacArthur Foundation based the award on the achievement of cadets in basic training camp and the number of cadets that go on to military commissions. More than half of Sac State's cadets were in the top third of their training camp classes last year, and 26 went on to accept a military commission--double the goal for the unit and especially noteworthy, given the high level of international tension since 9/11.
The Army ROTC students can enroll in the program for two or four years, and after receiving a bachelor's degree, may accept commission as a second lieutenant.
The MacArthur Award is a high point for cadets.
"I've been in this program one semester and it fills me with a sense of pride knowing our cadre is producing the top leaders," Cadet Stephen Rattan said.
Last year the program only had 28 cadets enrolled, and this year they have 52 cadets, said Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Donald Hill.
"Every year we have a goal to commission so many cadets, last year it was 13 and this year it's 17. They increase the numbers when we meet our goal," Hill said.
The ROTC program also offers full scholarships to students."We offer two, three and four year full ride scholarships, which pays for the student's entire tuition, it gives $600 a year for textbooks and a $300-$400 monthly stipend," Pedroza said.
And the dark days of being excluded from campus are long past. The ROTC program receives a lot of support from both the UC Davis and Sacramento State campus, which is another reason why their program won the award, Pedroza said.