STILLWATER, Okla. —
The military fatigues are familiar.
These are the men and women who push up and down on a board in the air every time the Oklahoma State Cowboys score a touchdown.
But the rest of the time they are building the strength and agility needed to do countless pushups — and much more.
These are members of the Oklahoma State University Army ROTC.
“We are very involved in our community,” said Cadet Jordan Gelino. “One of the things we’re known for is doing the pushup board at the OSU games. This last season, we’ve been very sore and have added a few pounds of muscle.”
They also do the T-shirt cannon at football and basketball games.
But on a stretch of land in western Stillwater, complete with woods, hills and rugged terrain, leadership and more serious skills are what the cadets are busy learning.
“(In) ROTC, you meet a lot of great people,” said Catherine Terrell, a senior, or MS 4, cadet. “You’re out here every day. It keeps you in shape. With the job and economy right now, you’re guaranteed a job after college. Military — it’s a great opportunity.”
Terrell has been a part of the Army ROTC for four years. She transferred to the OSU Army ROTC last year. Terrell was born in Oklahoma City and grew up in Biloxi, Miss.
Terrell is one of approximately 100 cadets who spend every Wednesday training in western Stillwater.
“We’re doing STX or squad training exercises,” said Terrell. “Basically, we’ll have a squad leader and they’ll run through different missions like ambush or a squad attack.”
Battalion Commander Edward Echohawk said senior cadets evaluate the training while juniors lead squads comprised of freshman and sophomore cadets on missions.
“Well, this area, for us, is training area one and it’s university owned, to my knowledge,” said Echohawk. “And as long as I’ve been in the program, which is only two years, this has been where we’ve trained.”
He said the area is specific for squad level tactical training.
While the cadets spend two hours every Wednesday training, the work doesn’t stop there. Gelino said the group also has physical training every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. They also offer a PT class and have mandatory field training exercises once each semester.
Even in training, there are fun parts.
“Last semester, we did some rappelling and stuff like that,” said Terrell. “We’ll do C.W.S.T., which is combat water survival training, so we’ll get to swim around the pool and stuff; jump off the high dive board blindfolded, so I mean, we get to do a lot of cool stuff.”
Cadet Tanner Pearce, an MS 2, or sophomore cadet, has been involved with Army ROTC two years.
“I just met with a recruiter one day at freshman orientation and just decided it sounded cool and joined and I ended up contracting and it’s something I want to do now,” said Pearce.
He said he has been able to be in a leadership position as a sophomore, which normally doesn’t happen until a cadet becomes a junior. He says it has helped him prepare for his junior year and has proven to be a valuable learning experience.
Echohawk said that because everyone involved in the OSU Army ROTC is a college student, they come with a purpose.
“We get kids who are studying aviation and want to be pilots and kids that want to be engineers,” said Echohawk. “I want to do foreign policy advising and analysis, but I’m going into the infantry and I’m getting a master’s in political science. There’s a pretty eclectic collection of personalities and people and interests in the program.”
For Terrell, the ROTC program was a guide.
“To be honest, I wasn’t real sure what I wanted to do when I first got in,” said Terrell. “I kind of had an idea that I wanted to be a doctor, but then getting in this program, it helped find what I really wanted. And right away, I knew I wanted to be military police.”
She said the hardest part is balancing schoolwork and ROTC training.
“It’s all about time management,” said Terrell. “We get done with PT at like 7, so I don’t have a class until 9:30, so I’ll come home and do homework then and then afterward.”
Her hard work is paying off. She learned in October that she will become a military police officer.
Pearce said college students should consider giving the ROTC a shot.
“I think they really just don’t have an idea of what it’s actually like until you actually get out here and try it out, you know?” said Pearce. “I know that’s how I used to think.”
Gelino said the ROTC program isn’t just for contracting cadets who are required to serve in the military.
“Many of the people here are regular students who are trying out the course as an elective credit and it also allows them an opportunity to see if ROTC and the Army life is right for them,” said Gelino.
Advantages to joining the ROTC program include not only training, but having a normal college experience and being able to have a job.
“Army ROTC is not for everyone, but it is worth looking into to see if it is for you,” said Gelino. “I can’t imagine, personally, the direction my life would go if I hadn’t had the Army ROTC as an option in college. I’m leaving college with a guaranteed job. I’ve got wonderful job security. I’m about to get married in two and a half weeks and knowing that I’ve got that kind of security where I can provide for my future family, it’s very relieving.”