Letter to the editor: Saving lives, not killing them

  Dear editor, I read last week’s letter to the editor by a Mr. Thomas Naylor with puzzlement and amusement at his allegations of a “culture of violence” that UVM has allegedly been “benignly neglecting” for the past 20 years. Particularly offensive in Mr. Naylor’s disjointed and illogical diatribe was his characterization, and indeed wholesale condemnation. of the University’s ROTC program, of which I am a member. Mr. Naylor suggested that ROTC at UVM did little more than “train professional killers,” and in doing so contributed to an underlying culture of violence to which the recent SigEp controversy, and seemingly every other bad thing that has happened at this school in the last two decades, may be attributed. I take this opportunity to speak to something with which I have firsthand experience, and correct Mr. Naylor’s gross mischaracterization of UVM Army ROTC. First, I would call Mr. Naylor’s attention to what the initials ROTC stand for; it is the Reserve Officer Training Corps. The majority of Cadets who have the privilege to study in this or any ROTC program in our country wind up in their respective states’ National Guard or in the Army Reserve, as opposed to the regular active duty Army. The United States has a long tradition of citizen soldiering, from the fabled “minutemen” that comprised our colonial militias, to the droves of everyday men and women who served during the Second World War. That tradition continues to this day. It is a healthy thing that the regular army is leavened with competent, but not necessarily “professional,” soldiers and officers. Without the deep bench of well-rounded citizen-soldiers that ROTC produces, that would not be possible. An excellent, local example of this would be the Vermont National Guard. While it is true that the Vt. Guard recently came home from a deployment to Afghanistan, it is also true that that very same outfit saved thousands of lives in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and helped in the aftermath of devastating flooding in Vermont last year. UVM ROTC products were integral pieces of both operations. Contrary to what Mr. Naylor suggests, ROTC is not in the rough business of minting killers but leaders. On a personal level I can refute Mr. Naylor’s claims from my own experience. I am a history and a political science major. I intend to spend a few years as an Army officer because I believe in service to our country, and I am interested in the unique leadership training that the military offers. I am not a warmonger or an imperialist. It is the same story for my peers in the Green Mountain Battalion. We are all typical students. Perhaps we wake up a little earlier than the rest of the student body, but as a population that is all that distinguishes us. The basic military training we are given at this stage of our careers only serves to strengthen us in other aspects of academic and personal life. I can testify that the emphasis of our ROTC education is on leadership and personal development, not the means and methods of “professional killing.” ROTC is an integral part of this school’s history. Indeed, until 1948, participation in the program was mandatory for all male students. It strikes me that this institution functioned as well as any other in the country for most of that time. I find it laughable the notion that a “culture of violence” exists at UVM at all — Groovy UV of all places! — but the suggestion that ROTC has contributed to that alleged culture is recklessly misguided and deeply offensive.   Very respectfully, John Hart Class of 2014