“You’re in ROTC? Do you know so-and-so?”
“No… I’m in Navy ROTC.”
“I didn’t know Georgetown had a navy program.”
“Well actually, it doesn’t.”
This conversation became routine during my four years at Georgetown. Most students are familiar with the Army ROTC program on campus but do not realize that there are also a small number of Navy midshipmen here (seven to be exact, up from four last year).
While army cadets from American, Catholic and GW come to Georgetown for their training, we, along with midshipmen from UMD, Howard, and Catholic, commute to GW three times a week for NROTC. Being a “crosstown” student means many additional early mornings, but it also fosters a tight community between us. Our preparation includes everything from a three-credit Naval science course per semester, to physical training, professional development, leadership roles and community service.
Reserve Officer Training Corps is actually an antiquated misnomer; everyone who commissions through NROTC has a five-year active duty service commitment.
The other part of that initial conversation usually includes:
“I didn’t really picture you in the Navy.”
Honestly, neither did I. Whatever the stereotype for a naval officer is, it’s not me. Neither of my parents was in the military, and I never really considered the Navy until I started applying to colleges.
My older brother went to the Naval Academy, and I was certain I did not want to do the same, but the more I looked into NROTC, the more it seemed to fit. I knew I wanted a job where I could travel, work with motivated and moral people, represent the United States in a positive light, and challenge myself. The Navy provides all that and more. When I first started NROTC as a “fourth class.” I thought it would change me in some way to fit that stereotype. In fact, I’ve found NROTC to be quite a diverse bunch of people more concerned with performance than conformity.
Throughout the past four years, the Navy and NROTC staffs have been overwhelmingly supportive. I would not have been able to attend Georgetown without the full tuition assistance the Navy provides.
Even though 85 percent of NROTC students have technical majors, I was fortunate enough to get selected for one of the new Language, Regional Expertise and Cultural Awareness scholarships, which allowed me to study what I wanted in the SFS.
The Navy financed my two separate semesters abroad to Argentina and Peru, and sent me on a summer training cruise to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. These experiences helped foster both my academic and personal growth, and I feel better prepared to lead because of them.
More than anything, the spirit of camaraderie that defines NROTC is what reassures me I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
On one hand, everyone is competing for service selection (aviation, submarines, surface warfare, special warfare or marines) and homeport, but on the other hand, we all want to commission together.
The older midshipmen mentor the younger midshipmen; there’s a peer tutoring system in place; we work out with each other; and the battalion leadership is genuinely invested in the success of every individual; we are constantly pushing each other to improve.
Besides the general sense of good will between us, there is the very real chance that one day we will have to depend on one another in combat. Because of this shared mentality, I have close friends at all five consortium universities.
Hopefully, I don’t come off as recruiting propaganda. Everyone joins NROTC for unique reasons and has his or her own experiences. The dropout rate is a lot higher than I expected. It is still a little surreal knowing I will be graduating and getting stationed at my homeport (hopefully Spain) in less than four months.
That said, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Nicholas Tsusaki is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.