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April 14, 2005

Counter-Point: The ROTC is a Valuable Part of the BC Community

Brian Kelly

      Eric Stoffel, A&S ’05, answered some questions about his involvement in the ROTC and his reaction to GJP protests of the organization.

      What do you feel the mission of ROTC on campus is?

      The mission of ROTC is quite simply to prepare college students to be efficient and successful leaders in any of the four branches of the Armed Forces of the United States.

      What does ROTC contribute to a college campus? Do you believe that it takes anything away from institutions at which it exists?

      I believe ROTC helps bring motivated, patriotic and selfless individuals to campuses where ROTC units exist. Cadets and Midshipmen clearly make their decision on where to attend school based on the availability of ROTC, so ROTC at BC is responsible for helping attract a student body including Cadets and Midshipmen that any reasonable analysis would conclude are a fantastic group of people. Keep in mind that the military lifestyle always includes lots of moving from city to city, an incredible amount of time away from family and friends, and dangerous deployments overseas; the people who sign up for this duty are deeply motivated and interested in sacrificing for something bigger than themselves. I think ROTC takes nothing away from Boston College.

      Do you think that without scholarships/funding students would still participate in the program?

      Certainly there are people who would not have signed up for ROTC if it was not for the tuition scholarships. Things, however, have a funny way of working themselves out. For example, I once heard a four-star admiral explain that he joined the Navy simply because he wanted to go to Vietnam on his own terms (not as a ground soldier). He was a farm boy from Wyoming who ended up serving 30 years and attaining a rank that only the most intelligent and driven can ever achieve. I say this because a Midshipman might well have joined ROTC in large part due to the money it provides, but he joined knowing what he was getting himself into and in the end he may well decide that the military is a rewarding career worth continuing. Cadets and Midshipmen are not chiefly driven by monetary concerns. You don’t get rich in the military, so the scholarships really act to take pressure off of people and allow them to make a decision regarding ROTC free of concern about paying for college. It also must be stated that there are many members of ROTC who are not on scholarship and participate in all activities next to the scholarship students.

      Would you fight in a war that you did not support? Why or why not.

      There are any number of factors related to a certain war that I may not like, but as a commissioned officer it is my duty to carry out orders as they are given to me. As a nation we have built a structure in which we democratically elect civilian leaders who construct the policy to be carried out by the armed forces. It is absolutely essential that the civilian leaders know that their military is going to execute the orders they hand down. As an officer, I will not be a robot. I think for myself and I will not carry out illegal orders, but at the same time it must be kept in mind that military personnel are the operators of policy created by democratically elected leaders.

      Many have alleged that the function of ROTC at BC is not in keeping with Jesuit ideals. How do you respond to such claims of incongruence between the two?

      The idea that ROTC is incongruent with Jesuit ideals is, quite simply, absurd. Ignatius of Loyola himself was a soldier who decided that he would commit the rest of his life to God and run his Society of Jesus in a soldierly manner. He did not renounce being a soldier and in fact called on others to be “soldiers of Christ.” BC’s own Father McNellis is a highly respected Jesuit priest and philosophy professor who was one of the last US Army advisors to the South Vietnamese. He remains steadfastly supportive of ROTC Cadets and Midshipmen, and I once heard him assert that he could think of nothing more ethical than wanting to defend one’s country. The Office of Student Development’s Dean Ryan is a former Army Ranger. I think any group attempting to say that ROTC is not in line with Jesuit ideals is simply hijacking the good Jesuit name to suit their political purposes. I further think it is particularly troubling considering ROTC students are sacrificing to defend the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.

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