UNI ROTC celebrates future Army officers with contracting ceremony

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  • From left to right, Dylan Carlsen, Dani Danielson, Wyatt Fitzgerald and Colin Spies contracted this semester. Contracting commits them to eight years of military service directly after graduation.

  • UNI ROTC trains students to be future military officers through a series of physical training, classes and labs. While the focus is on military training, the program is open to anyone and does not require participants to enlist in the military.

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On the morning of Nov. 17, UNI Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) honored the students committed to taking the next step in Army leadership with their contracting ceremony.

Cadets Dylan Carlsen, Dani Danielson, Wyatt Fitzgerald and Colin Spies were celebrated in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center for contracting with the military after graduation. UNI’s ROTC program also has an extension school, the University of Dubuque, bringing the total number of cadets contracting this semester to eight.

Lieutenant Colonel Dean R. Ray is the head of the Department of Military Science at UNI. 

“They have an enlistment ceremony in the Army, and this is very much a similar thing,” he said. “The kids that are going to contract throughout this semester have one, stood up and said that they are ready to serve, so they are signing their initial contract, they’re committing themselves to the Army and to the profession. Two, they’ve been cleared through all of the medical and physical requirements.”

The contracting ceremony was held alongside MercyOne’s Festival of Trees and the Veterans’ Breakfast. 

“We don’t really get the opportunity to highlight the contracting ceremony like we would like to, because it is a big deal,” Ray said.

“The Festival of Trees has partnered with us for the past few years and given us the opportunity to highlight those kids during this ceremony, which is great thing because it’s a big deal for these kids, and it just shows the support from MercyOne, the community and the university for allowing us to partner with this event,” he said.

When cadets sign a contract, they agree to serve for eight years directly after graduating college. As Ray explained, this is the standard length of service for Army contracting, whether an individual joined out of high school, from a recruitment office or out of a university. However, the ROTC program is far more than just an Army recruitment tool.

“A lot of people interact with the Army and Army recruiters coming out of high school and then when they come to college, they associate us with that. Which, we are in the same organization, but we’re going for a whole different mission set, because what we’re trying to do is build and grow officers and leaders,” Ray said.

“It’s not just the Army aspect. I teach leadership,” he continued. “For 20 years I’ve either been leading or going to school in the military to learn how to lead better, and all of my cadre are in the same boat, just with a little bit less time. We have over 100 years of leadership experience sitting right over here at the Nielsen Fieldhouse.

ROTC is designed to specifically train students to become Army officers, a position that requires a college degree.

However, Ray emphasized that the program is open to people of all backgrounds, even if they aren’t necessarily set on joining the military.

“You can do this program for up to two years with no commitment,” he said. “If the Army interests you, great, we’ll continue to have that conversation, but there’s not a course on this campus that’s really leadership 101, and we offer that over here in many different forms and capacities because that’s what we do. We’re here to grow and build leaders.”

“The kids that are committed and contracting just happen to be going off and leading in the Army, but we want to teach leaders that are going to be in education, going to be in business, going to be in technology, whatever it may be,” he said.

UNI’s ROTC program currently has over 45 students. Including the University of Dubuque extension, the program as a whole has a total of just under 80 participants.

When it comes to day-to-day routine, Ray says that students in ROTC aren’t all that different from other organizations on campus. The participants have three days of physical fitness throughout the week. On top of that, juniors and seniors have two class periods and a lab, which all add up to an additional eight hours in their weekly schedules.

“I think one of the biggest things is breaking the barriers down on campus and the kids understanding that their peers that are here in ROTC are not different from their peers that are in the band, on an athletic team, in a business organization or anything like that on campus,” Ray said.

“It’s just what the end state looks like, and the end state for the young men and women in this program is that they’re going to be Army officers, but at the end of the day, they’re living college life just like everybody else is on campus,” he said.

More information on UNI’s ROTC program can be found at csbs.uni.edu/military-science or by emailing [email protected].