Is there an ROTC program at the University?

Dear Benny:
Sometimes early in the morning I see a big group of men and women dressed in military uniforms marching through campus. The troops look like they could be college students. Does Penn have an ROTC program?
—Forward March

Dear FM:

You must be an early riser because the students you’ve seen performing military drills on campus are part of Penn’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program (NROTC), and they often get their start as early as 6 a.m., doing calisthenics at Franklin Field. The group of marchers you’ve seen moving in formation through campus is a mix of ROTC students who attend Drexel, Temple, and yes, Penn.

According to Mark Frazier Lloyd, director of the University Archives and Records Center, a cousin to today’s Penn NROTC program—known as the Students’ Army Training Corps—was established on campus in September of 1918. But that didn’t last long. In November of that same year, the armistice ending World War I was signed, and the corps was disbanded.

The modern version of Penn NROTC was created in 1940, before America’s entry into World War II. For a time, Penn was also the home to an Army ROTC unit. However, that unit is now located at Drexel.

Today, the Penn NROTC scholarship program educates and trains students for service as unrestricted line officers in the Naval Reserve or Marine Corps Reserve. Students who are chosen for the program receive tuition, books, fees, and other financial aid benefits. Upon graduation, they are commissioned as officers in the unrestricted line of the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps and are required to serve for five years.

The program has cross-town agreements with Temple and Drexel. Together, the ROTC units participate in physical training at Penn twice a week and also do what Lt. James Giles, one of the NROTC instructors, calls “standard Marine Corps drills.” 

Originally published on January 19, 2012