Interview with JHU ROTC
ROTC at HOPKINS: An Interview with Senior Cadet Sean White
By Rochelle Arnold-Simmons
Cadet Sean White is a Senior Cadet who served as the Battalion Commander last semester.
1. How long have you been a part of the ROTC program here?
I have been a part of the program from day one; since freshman year, August 2011.
2. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am from South Jersey, about an hour outside of Philadelphia. I have a younger brother and sister, and we are all two years apart. I knew I wanted to go to school somewhere down south a little but not too far from home. That is what drew me to Hopkins. I wanted to experience another city other than Philadelphia. I played ice hockey since I was eight all the way through high school and gave it up when I came here. It was a big part of my growing up.
3. What made you decide to join ROTC and serve in the military.
When I first started probing about ROTC I was a junior in high school. Initially as a seventeen year old, I was attracted by the idea that it could pay for college and take away the burden of having debt after college. I had a friend who had a brother that did ROTC. I have always been interested in history and politics. The more research I did, I thought I would be good at it and it was a good way to do something after ice hockey ended. Over time, the reasons definitely have changed. A lot of people come in and leave after the first week or semester. I think the reason I stuck it out is because I saw that ROTC had a lot to teach me about myself and would help me structure myself to do something ultimately productive.
4. How has ROTC impacted your life as a student?
Very positively, I struggled a bit, as all kids do out of high school, and had all this free time and felt I did not have to go to class. I took advantage of that all of freshman year and paid a bit of a price for it. The early morning workouts structure helps you, I was not there day one, but over 2 semesters, it really helped me structure my life better and become ultimately more mature. It took me a while to get to that point.
ROTC and the Army in general care; not just about your performance when you come into the building. Around my sophomore year, an upper classman (a junior) took an interest in me and told me what I needed to be successful as a student and in ROTC and pointed me in the right direction. It was ROTC and the upper classman taking an interest in me that helped. The upperclassman mentor is part of the program design. It is a formalized mentorship program where the seniors are paired with freshman, sophomore and juniors. They sit down with you a couple of times a week and talk about your strengths and what you can do to get better.
For example, this Sunday we are getting together to do a foot march with rucksack and I can assure you there will be conversations where we will talk about what's going well and what challenges they are having, what did they struggle with in class this week. This is the more informal way. This is huge. It took the upper classman to get me on my way and I’ve had some really good mentors over the course of my time here. I now have six that I mentor this semester, two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors. It is beneficial to them and to me for me to give back in a way that was so helpful to me.
5. What experience have you gained by being in the ROTC that you think you would not have garnered as a non ROTC student?
I think the way I am forced to think about myself and criticize myself outside of academics. The school gets very academic at times and does not focus on yourself or self-reflection and how can you get better as a person and ROTC focuses on that. It is driven so much into you over your four years in ROTC it becomes second nature. The ability to analyze myself and my dealings with other people are a big deal and you will not learn that in a classroom anywhereROTC put me into situations where you have to practically implement those skills and techniques. Building leaders is what we do.
6. What advice would you give to another student who may be considering joining ROTC?
I would tell them to talk to someone who is in ROTC that can give them some info before having to jump full into it. There are so many students in the program that are willing to sit down and educate people on what we do here. Outside of ROTC there are not many people who can tell you what we do and how we do it. Everyone is willing to share, even the freshman, who I am very impressed with, will help the newer people. They will share, here is what I've learned and here are some mistakes I've made that you can avoid. It is a very welcoming experience. It is not what you see on TV where you walk in the door and get screamed at in your face and are made to do pushups. It is not like that at all.
7. What do you know now that you wish you had known before joining ROTC?
I would have like to have had a better idea of what ROTC was trying to teach me. When I joined, my reasons were different than why I stuck it out. When I walked in the door, I had no idea they were going to teach me leadership or how to be an officer. When I walked in the door I did not know what an officer was. If I had been told that by someone on day one, I do not think I would have had the same appreciation as I did by seeing it and doing it.
8. What is the biggest misperception about ROTC that you would like to clarify?
Sometimes people who do not understand what we do or how we do it think we are what they see on TV. They have this very narrow image of what the military is. They think it is people shooting and running around. There is so much more to the Army than that. It took me a while to see all the sides to it. We have lawyers, police officers, and military intelligence all in the Army. There is so much more than what you see on TV. People should learn about the diversity of what we offer and that we do not all do the same thing.
9. How do you think your experience with ROTC has prepared you for the military?
It has made me ultimately a better person. It has made me more mature, more critical of myself, willing and able to take responsibility for other people. Most importantly I have been given the opportunity to practically apply the things we talk about. Whether it is during lab or over the summer, last summer I got to go to Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Bliss in Texas and got to experience some of the things I will be doing down the line. Those experiences are a part of what has prepared me the best. At the same time, there is still so much we don't know and don't understand. Just in class yesterday we learned some of what we don't know and that we have so much more to learn.
10. How will your military service/experience impact your professional development and career?
In terms of my professional development, I've learned it is really important to take charge of your own professional development. To figure out what you don't know and what you need to know and figure out how you will get there. It applies for the ROTC and outside of it as well. The other piece in terms of professional development, seeking out mentors, I have developed an appreciation for that. The people that are the most successful in ROTC have had very powerful mentorship which applies in life as well.
11. Do you have any idea of what you would like to do when your military career is over?
The military is very determined by world events and many things outside of my control. If the Army keeps getting smaller, that may change how long I am in there and what I will do afterwards. I think it depends on how long I stay in that will determine what I do afterwards. I am still interested in politics and history so I think something in the government whether it is state department or something along those lines would be interesting to me, but I know my interest will probably change in three years.
12. Want would you want our readers to know about the ROTC in general?
I would want them to know that the students in ROTC are the same as students that are not in ROTC. We are the same. We value a civilian education and the army values a civilian education as well. We are involved in athletics and other student organizations. We have folks involved in many other activities. I cannot think of a single person that just does ROTC. We are always involved in something else. There are all types of majors not just history, there are pre-law, pre-med as well, we are all in here. At the end of the day we are all normal college kids.
By Rochelle Arnold-Simmons
Program is led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Carroll, Director and Professor of Military Science
1. Can you tell us a little about the program?
The ROTC program has been at Johns Hopkins since 1916 continuously. It is one of the oldest programs in the country. There are currently 91 cadets. On average over the last four years, we have commissioned about 17 second lieutenants per year. The program commissions into the United States Army Active Duty, Army Reserves and Army National Guard.
The program does not include only Hopkins students; we have University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Stevenson University, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), and University of Baltimore. Hopkins is the host program; I refer to it as the mothership. This is where we do all the classes and where all the personnel are assigned.
2. What are the demographics of the program?
The program is 80% male and 20% female. It is one of the more diverse programs in this brigade in race, ethnicity and gender.
3. What would you like the Johns Hopkins community to know about the program?
They are college students first. We tell each student their first priority is academics. Each student has an advisor assigned to them who will meet with them 2, 3 or 4 times a semester. They will ask them how are they eating, sleeping, what are their grades, what are our plans to improve, how are things at home and what can we do for them. That is what's different about this department. We are really concerned about the whole student.
4. What is the percentage of students that come into the program vs those that stay all the way through and join the Army?
We aggregate the numbers by year. The first two years you can take the classes and not be contracted. Contracted means they agree they will be an officer at the end of their four years. The juniors who sign up have to contract. The largest gap is between the sophomore and junior year when they have to elect to make that commitment. Overall about 45%; we retain 48% over their freshman and sophomore years, 97% between junior and senior year. If they are a non-scholarship cadet, they contract for three years active duty. If they are a scholarship cadet, they contract for four years.
By the time they are seniors, 8 out of 10 are on scholarship. At Hopkins that is a full tuition scholarship, $1,200 for books plus $500 for incidentals. It does not include room and board.
The Johns Hopkins program first commissioned medical officers in 1897, there were many programs in the late 1960's and early 1970’s who had issues and left some campuses, but Hopkins’ program continued to stay open.
5. As the leader, are you in the military?
As the leader, I am active duty and all my personnel are active duty and full time with the program. I currently have six people both officers and non-commissioned officers.
We are very proud of the program. Last March we were presented the MacArthur Award for the best program among every university between South Carolina and the Mason Dixon Line. This past fall, we competed in the Ranger Challenge Championship in Virginia, which we won. The Hopkins team will be competing in the Sandhurst competition at West Point against schools from across the country and the world in April 2015.
We commission students the day before graduation so they are lieutenants when they walk across the stage. Sean will be a lieutenant and stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Our junior and senior graduates know what they will be doing when they graduate. They may not know the exact job, but they know they have a job.
We also send people to professional schools to become lawyers, chaplains, doctors, physical therapists and veterinarians to name a few professions. They are commissioned as a lieutenant and then they get an educational slot and will go into the army as a doctor, lawyer, or veterinarian. You never see veterinarians on TV in the military. When they are deployed they may be working with the indigenous population that are using donkey power for transportation. They will have oxen, cows etc. and our vets help to ensure the animals are healthy for the farmer. It could be their livelihood and if we take care of that for them it is a help to our military as well.
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