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With a high school junior, we've been hitting the college fairs and career fairs lately. "So what have you got in mind?" I asked him. I know that he's been interested in computers and software as a career. "Dad," he said, "I've been thinking about the Army, maybe ROTC." "Oh yeah? What area?" thinking he might look into some kind of tech training. "Infantry." [Sound of jaw dropping.]

I tried to draw out his reasons. "Well, Dad, they have medical and dental benefits." So I explained that for something like engineering, the job should include benefits like medical, dental, retirement, continued training...

With four kids, helping with college will be a little tight, but we can swing it with loans, etc., and I wouldn't want him to make a military commitment because of money. We also talked about how job satisfaction comes from a combination of pay + benefits + what you do + who you work with + where you work + who you work for + other stuff. Was he thinking of the Army because of the perceived need for college help, or because he wanted to serve his country in that way? It looks like the latter.

He's a smart kid--science fair awards, honor society. He knows that the "real thing" isn't as bad as Oliver Stone portrayed in "Platoon," or as "fun" as the Ghost Recon game. Both his grandfathers carried M1s through Korea, but that topic doesn't come up much since one isn't around any more and the other lives in another state.

Like I said, I don't want him to think that's the only way of financing a college education, but I don't want to discourage him if that's really his calling. I would be proud if he chose to serve in the Army.

But now I'm stuck. Do any of you have advice or know of resources for this? Thanks.
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Breeze,
I may be preaching to the choir, because I don't know if you were in the military or not. But just in case there are lurkers who are interested in the same thing, I offer this short advice. (btw, my background is Army brat, enlisted then USMA, 26 yrs service, retired Army. Son is Sr in college, tried ROTC scholarship route but didn't take it, now going into State Dept).

You said you'd be proud of him if he chose to serve in the Army, but you probably meant you'll be proud of him no matter where he goes, and equally proud of him if he decides to serve in the Army. Its an important point, because during about the first half of my time in service, say 1966 to 1980, that might not have been a given for many parents.

If he's decides on the Army, there's no reason not to use the ROTC scholarship route. If he's doubtful, he might still compete for and accept the scholarship, since the ROTC ought to help him make up his mind.

For resources, my son went to the local recruiter and got all the info he needed on several programs he was interested in. He got a very straight shooter at the recruiting office (btw, so did I in my time). I have counselled several other young men who have gone to recruiters as well, and none has ever reported anything but the most professional support from their recruiter. The recruiters know the system, and, in my experience, have nothing but the best interests of the young person and the Army at heart.

So, my resource recommendation for Army service is to accompany your son to the nearest recruiting station, and get to know the NCOs there. If, after researching his options, he decides to sign up for ROTC, they'll help him through the selection process, and he'll have met some good role models as well. Plus he'll have gone there with another one.

Rgds
batboss
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Do any of you have advice or know of resources for this? Thanks.

What type of things are you looking for ? My daughter choose to go AFROTC in college even though we would have paid her tuition, room and board. She had a 3 year scholarship beginning her sophomore year so she had a year of ROTC before she really had a commitment to service.

If he decides he's interested, apply very early senior year - the first board is in November. If you need links, I can find them for you. My younger son considered ROTC and decided to pass and since he's a college freshman, I have fairly current stuff.

One aside - once she was awarded the scholarship mid-senior year, she got a couple of additional offers from college where she hadn't even applied.

rad
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Breeze

Why not get him a look at the Military Academy

http://www.usma.edu/

I serve on Congressman Nathan Deal's Service Academy Selection Committee and we're always looking for bright and motivated young men and women to award $250,000 scholarships to.

Regards

John

P.S. Have him (or you) contact me if you have any questions
johnwp61@yahoo.com
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Clarifications, based on the replies here and via Email:
-No, I was never in the military.
-Yes, I'll probably be proud of whatever he does, since he tends to do a good job at whatever he puts his mind to; yet, I can imagine a little extra for taking on something tough and necessary, like jobs that involve defending our country or running into buildings to rescue people.
-What I'm looking for is perspective that I just don't have, having gone to college right after high school and becoming an engineer right after that. What are the positives and negatives that we never see from the outside? I can do some research at the library and on the internet, but what are the questions I would never think to ask, or the topics that wouldn't occur to someone to investigate?

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the thoughts and suggestions.
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If he were my son I'd suggest you both set aside the benefits package for a moment and ask him how he feels about being a soldier. There's no doubt the benefits are great, state of the art technical training, and a staggering scope of training options across many fields.

But at the end of the day, does your son want to serve his country? At the end of the day is your son willing, COMMITTED to defending this country at any cost, anywhere, any time he's called upon to do so.

This is what a soldier is. This is what a soldier does, every time he's asked, for as long as he's asked. Maybe you should focus on a realistic understanding of the sacrifice he might be asked to make, and the inherent danger in military service.

Most successful soldiers though they benefit from the education and training, are soldiers first, students second. If your son isn't willing to accept that level of risk and committment, then benefits are moot.

There are literally tens of thousands of scholarships, grants, and programs where he could get money for school. And not one of them will ever ask him to leave his family at a moment's notice, ship him halfway across the world, and expect him to take up arms to defend his country, even at the cost of his life.

In fact there's a book in every library, about 10" thick, filled with scholarships, grants, and special endowments for students. Some are based on income, others on grades, but a ton of them are just wierd...live on a dairy farm in Kansas, or be divorced with more than 3 children.

Unless your son's truly interested in becoming a soldier first, and a student second, go look through that book. You'll find something, perhaps several things that are a fit, and don't entail the risk or dedication of military service.

I don't mean in any way to suggest that's his only reason for considering the military. But, he needs to look at the MILITARY aspect as much if not more than the educational benefits. I doubt very seriously if he'd get near a college anytime soon. But I can almost guarrantee he will ship out to Iraq or Afghanistan within a year of joining. If that's a job he's eager to do and willing to risk all to do it, then that's definitely the way to go. If not, don't even consider it.

And take what any recruiter says with a few tons of salt. Take any offer he gets to a jag officer to look over.

Good luck and best wishes

Betty
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Why not get him a look at the Military Academy

Here's why I discouraged my daughter from this choice -

I don't think the education is as good.
If you change your mind, you will often lose a semester in transferring.
It's an additional year of commitment.

Perhaps West Point is doing better but USAFA has been having its problems over the past couple of years.(I live in Colorado).

Had it been her choice, I would have supported it, however.

rad
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-What I'm looking for is perspective that I just don't have, having gone to college right after high school and becoming an engineer right after that. What are the positives and negatives that we never see from the outside? I can do some research at the library and on the internet, but what are the questions I would never think to ask, or the topics that wouldn't occur to someone to investigate?

I've always worked in higher education. There were a number of ROTC and Guard scholarship students who seemed not to have understood the commitment they made during the first Gulf War. Because of that experience, I had several discussions with my daughter about the commitment she would be making and the possibility that she might get called out of school. I called it the "war talk."

Huge positive - college graduation is correlated with small group interaction and being connected on campus. ROTC gives a student that immediately. They are also often allowed to move in early and may get some registration benefits(to be able to fit in their classes). There's also much increased academic advisement and planning. There's also more of an academic early warning system as well.

It can also give you more of a connection in the service - depending on the Detachment - hers was one of the largest so pretty much no matter where she goes, that's a oconnection.

Early morning physical training - um, less chance of the Freshman 10 ? :)

When she was a freshman, she had a cheap fun trip to Florida. Non-luxury transportation, though.

If there's a college near you with a ROTC program, I'd go talk to some students and see if you can find some parents to talk to. If there's a way to talk to some grads who are in the service, that would probably be helpful as well.

rad
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I went to an engineering school on a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship many years ago (early 80s)- so things may have changed since then- if this info is "dated", maybe someone will correct me.

If he goes to a top flight engineering school and gets a degree in engineering, they army will DISCOURAGE him from going infantry. Any ROTC grad can fill an infantry slot, but the army is often short of technically trained people, so they tend to put technical people into technical slots.

When he gets to his senior year, they will ask him to choose 4 branches that he prefers (As I recall, you have to choose two combat arms branches, one support and one service support). If he chooses Infantry as one of the branches, they will probably ignore it and branch him into something more appropriate to his skills. I went to Rensselaer Polytech, and the year I graduated, only one of us (24 guys) was branched combat arms- he was put into Aviation (e.g. Infantry, Armor, Artillery, etc), even though a couple of guys wanted to go Infantry*. Most of us were branched signal corps. I was branched Medical Service Corps.

The great thing about ROTC is that you have a wide variety of school choices AND you can have a fairly "normal" college experience. ROTC will take up some of your time (and it varies from campus to campus), but you wont' be "playing soldier" all the time (like you will have to do if you go to one of the Service Academies). I only had to wear the uniform one day per week, plus an occassional weekend for a field training exercise.

BTW, if he just wants to "serve his country" and get an education without getting killed, my recommendation is that he go Air Force ROTC. With a technical degree and Air Force ROTC, he will likely be in little danger- the Air Force has a far greater percentage of technical slots that don't require patrolling the streets of Baghdad.

jb

* One of my fellow cadets tried to protest his branch choice- he was branched Signal corps, but wanted Infantry. I don't recall if he was successful or not.
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I don't think the education is as good.


As good as what???

West Point is probably not as good in basket weaving or pure liberal arts but the following stats stand by themselves. Additionally, the number of grads who pursue advanced degrees is probably unequalled.

Rhodes Scholars
USMA began competing in 1923

Harvard 287
Yale 190
Princeton 164
USMA 84
Stanford 70
:: ::
USNA 36
USAFA 33

Marshall Scholars
USMA began
competing in 1982
(updated 1/04/05)

Harvard 97
Princeton 54
Stanford 46
Yale 42
MIT 35
Brown 30
USMA 27
USNA 15
:: ::
USAFA 8

Hertz Scholars
USMA began
competing in 1969

MIT 99
Stanford 62
Princeton 40
USMA 37
Harvard 36
USAFA 28
:: ::
Yale 14
USNA 9

Regards

John
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As good as what???

John: I think it depends on what field you ultimately intend to be in. Like any University, there are some areas that are wonderful and some that would be better pursued elsewhere.

impolite
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As good as what???

I hesitated before my last post but it's my opinion and what I would tell another parent.

You have your own biases and they're pretty clear.

rad
last post on subject
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I hesitated before my last post but it's my opinion and what I would tell another parent.

Just don't let the facts get in your way.

Regards

John
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