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I count myself as a proud alumnus of the Naval
Reserve Officer Training Corps at UC Berkeley. True, it's at
the home of the Weenies (that's what the Cardinal call Cal people), but
it was a great opportunity and a lot of fun.
Current (and former) midshipmen should check out my NROTC Info Page for useful gouge on subjects such as close order drill and cadences.
Note: while I'm no longer in NROTC, I've decided to keep this all in the present tense, both because it's less awkward, and because I'm lazy:
What do we do in NROTC?
Well, every Thursday we head out to Weenieland, departing the Farm at about noon and arriving back sometime late at night (as early as 7 and as late as 11). While we're up there, we do two things: "drill" and "class." (Note that the Berkeley unit is [somewhat] unique in that we do all of our activities for the week pretty much on one day...this is because there are midshipmen (i.e. college students who are officers in trainig) at UC Davis, Stanford, Cal Maritime, and UC Berkeley, all of whom have to get together in one place.)
This consists of the following:
- "Fall-in," which is a pretty impressive ceremony where everyone lines up in neat little rows, the color guard marches the flags around, and we get news about what's going on for the week.
- "Close-order drill," which is a fancy name for "marching." Although this gets tedious, it is sometimes pretty cool. The major reason we march is because it is the most basic form of leadership and teamwork: Unless the person leading the marching is very clear about his/her orders, it all falls apart. Likewise, the group must stay together to march sucessfully.
- Lectures. These might be time-wasting lectures on "how to salute" given by midshipmen (i.e. other college students in NROTC), interesting sea stories from the Commanding Officer, or boring-to-fascinating lectures by outside speakers (some of the latter were a retired Army general who was an expert on land mines, a college ethics professor, and a Navy submarine captain).
- Other stuff. Mostly this consists of "PT," which means "Physical Training," which can be fun (ultimate frisbee and the like), but this often seems like a waste of time for those of us who already are fairly physically active. Also, there are occasional inspections in which our uniforms and knowledge are carefully checked over. My roommate asked me why we spend so much time worrying about uniforms, and to be honest I'm sure in the real Navy they aren't quite so particular about their uniforms [Ed note: they aren't...at least not in the sub force. Now, the Marine Corps, by contrast...]. However, if one dresses well, one works well, and since we are all in training to become officers, we have to set the example when we get out in the fleet.
We have between two and three hours of Navy classes a week, which we attend just after drill. The classes are taught by the officers in the NROTC unit, who are all adjunct professors at UC Berkeley in the department of "Naval Science." (Thus, sometimes we refer to the commanding officer as the "PNS," or "Professor of Naval Science.") The classes vary in length, difficulty, quality, and utility: some, like Naval Science 1, are deadfully easy, while others, like Ship Systems, involve a lot of engineering. Probably the most useful one we've taken so far was Navigation--seeing as not running into other ships is somewhat important--but the course materials were a bit dated.
Why do I do NROTC?
A lot of people ask me this; the following are the main reasons:
- First, the people who do NROTC are really cool. Though there are a few weirdos, on the whole they tend to be friendly, smart, all-around nice people who are a joy to be around.
- Second, while I'm not sure if I want a career in the Navy, I'm very excited about being essentially given a management job fresh out of college. Few other organizations would trust someone who just graduated with a leadership role, responsible for millions of dollars of equipment and dozens of sailors or marines. I think the Navy is a great place for me to learn the essentials of leadership.
- I also like the fact that I'll be serving my country when I graduate. I think everyone ought to give back to their community and their country in some way--if not in the military, perhaps through charity work or other community service--and I think being in the Navy is a great way to do that.
- Finally, the Navy pays my college tuition. Considering how expensive Stanford is, I don't know if I'd be able to even go here without an NROTC scholarship. (They do not pay for room and board, however, so I don't have a completely free ride.) That being said, I'd probably stay in NROTC even if I could get my tuition paid some other way.
Cruises, Articles, and Other Fun NROTC Stuff
Every summer we go on a different "cruise" to learn more about the Navy. Here are pictures and other info from CORTRAMID West (in San Diego), 2/C Cruise in the Med, and 1/C FOREX Cruise with the Belgian Navy
Here's an article on the NROTC Freshman Orientation
that I wrote for the battalion newsletter, the Fo'c'sle.
(For you landlubbers, the fo'c'sle is short for the "forecastle," which
was a fortress at the front [fore] of the ship used to help board enemy
vessels. Nowadays, the fortress is gone but the foreward part of
the deck near the bow of a ship is still called the fo'c'sle; generally
that's where most of the big lines [don't call them "ropes"] and anchors are kept.
Don't ask me why we named our newsletter after it.)
Also from the Fo'c'sle are articles I wrote about CORTRAMID and my 2/C cruise
Finally, some humorous but instructive articles by CDR Lesa McComas, our old XO, and Nathan Luther, our old BCO (and now a LTJG on a submarine in an undisclosed location...).
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