Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

ROTC Students Accept Anti-War Protests

Charles Nailen/The Hoya Brighid Clark (SFS ’03) and Ian Dietz (SFS ’04) have been questioned by friends about the possibility of being sent to war, but they maintain the chances are extremely slim.

From the steps in the Henle fishbowl, the large window sign with “Don’t do it George, Daddy will still love you!” painted on it was easy to see. Inside the apartment, a smaller sign was visible, despite the dim, party-appropriate lighting. “NO WAR,” it said.

Standing nearby, Ian Dietz (SFS ’04) did not appear at all disturbed with the statements – even though he is a member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.

With campus debating the war in Iraq everywhere from classrooms to New South tables, political differences can sometimes lead to personal attacks. One student in a recent classroom debate called those who support the conflict “uneducated.” A few minutes later, a student passing the GU Peace Action Sleep-In at Red Square called the group “crazy.”

But Dietz says that he has not encountered any negative reaction to his status as a ROTC student on campus. “Georgetown is a very political school, so I think people recognize that this is not a matter of the people in uniform, but the people making the decisions,” Dietz says.

At other schools in the nation, however, protestors have come into conflict with ROTC students. According to a March 7 report from NBC, ROTC students at University of California Berkeley were the focus of a protest last week. After some students reported being called “mindless robots” set to kill, ROTC directors decided students did not need to wear their uniforms to class in the days leading to war.

ROTC students at Berkley said they felt like they were watched and tried to avoid protestors because they were worried they could be targets of their shouts. On Georgetown’s campus, Dietz says that passing protestors or anti-war posters does not make him uneasy because he does not feel like the protests are aimed at ROTC students.

Brighid Clark (SFS ’03), a student in the Navy ROTC program, says that she is also comfortable with campus activism. She notes that the ability to publicly express disapproval for the government represents rights vital to Americans.

“I don’t feel uncomfortable walking by protestors, like the people in Red Square, but they certainly don’t just fade into the background,” Clark says. “That is a very important part of what we can do in this country. I respect their right to do this wholeheartedly.”

Another Navy ROTC student, Joe Martin (COL ’05), shares this view. “That’s the beauty of this country, that you are free to go out there and protest,” he says.

Although the campus community seems to make the distinction between students involved in the military and the decision-makers who undertook military action in Iraq, Clark says many people are more confused about exactly what the war in Iraq means for ROTC students. Her friends outside the program all had one question for her after the fighting began Wednesday.

“Everyone was asking `Are they going to send you over?’ And the answer is no, definitely no,” she says.

As ROTC students are not commissioned officers, but in the reserves, it is extremely unlikely they will be called to duty. While over 150,000 adult reserve officers have been summoned to active duty, the military would only call up ROTC students who are still in the middle of their education in an emergency scenario. The last time the military called ROTC students from classes was after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Some ROTC students, like a large group from the University of Hawaii, started their tour of duty without finishing school during that time because the Japanese attack came as a surprise. The military faced a desperate need for lots of servicemen as quickly as possible.

Students in the ROTC program now do not think this same need will arise with the war in Iraq. “There’s not a chance we [ROTC students] would enter combat unless there were forces marching on D.C.,” Dietz says. “The military does not want to put college students without much experience out there fighting.”

Martin also faced friends’ questions about whether or not he would be sent to fight. He says he told them that the military thinks it is far more valuable for ROTC students to complete their degrees than to enter the field.

As long as the war stays overseas, therefore, ROTC students will continue their normal training routine on campus. “Being in D.C., just like any Georgetown student, we’re aware of any emergency responses, but it’s not above and beyond whatever anyone else would have to do,” Clark says.

Although the exercises might remain basically the same, Dietz notes that his training has taken on a different tone. “We are much more able to see what the end result of our training will be,” he says.

While putting this training into action on the field is still a somewhat distant prospect for ROTC underclassmen, for certain seniors, the move from the training field to the battlefield might be pressing closer. “I have friends who are going to graduate, who are going to go into the infantry and who are going to very likely be the people going over, if the war continues,” Dietz says.

And keeping with routine, Dietz headed off for physical training at 6:30 a.m. last Friday, less than two days after the fighting broke out in Iraq. With several other Army ROTC students, he walked by the G.U. Peace Action Sleep-In in Red Square. One Sleep-In participant emerged, bleary-eyed from a tent and stared at the passing group.

But the group just waved, the student turned back inside and they continued on without confrontation, heading out to train as usual.

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya