Army Components Synergize for College Students
February 10, 2012
MILWAUKEE -- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee honored those who serve the nation during a "Military Appreciation Night" when the Panthers took on Indianapolis' Butler University Jan. 26.
The Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion's executive officer represented the military as she delivered the game's basketball. UWM ROTC cadets presented the colors and sang the national anthem. Players on both teams displayed their support of the Army colors by donning jerseys with ACU-patterned numbers.
The event culminated the Army's outreach to the largest public university in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The synergistic efforts of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Wisconsin Army National Guard and U.S. Army Cadet Command to achieve this level of integration into the school's culture required a lot of nurturing.
"UWM used to be a liberal college. They did not want us to be in their school," said Sgt. Chasvonne Farrington, Shorewood Recruiting Station. "At one time even the veterans (students) were scared to approach us."
That was three years ago. Back then Farrington struggled to find professional space on campus to serve a modest seven cadets. No physical fitness training or military science classes were conducted on UWM. Cadets hitched a ride five miles south to Marquette University to keep up with those ROTC requirements.
As a USAREC recruiter, Farrington needed students to enlist but he served in sync with Cadet Command's mission to increase his access to students. He also teamed up with his National Guard counterpart to present a unified force on the UWM campus.
Now Farrington and Guardsman Sgt. 1st Class Joe Braun enjoy office space within the university's athletic department. Their co-location among coaches and athletics officials has not only facilited better relationships, it has enhanced their credibility among students, said Farrington.
In spite of their sometimes competing recruiting missions, Farrington and Braun cooperate within Cadet Command's mission in order to uphold the Army's image as one team.
"It's more of a win-win just working for ROTC. The numbers (toward one's mission) just fall out of that," Braun said. "First and foremost we look for good ROTC applicants. If we can get good applicants, then we get great enlistments out of it as well."
Their doubled efforts to raise awareness for ROTC has secured their position as military points of contact. Not only are cadets introducing friends to Farrington and Braun, the cadets are joining Army Reserve or Army National Guard units through the Simultaneous Membership Program.
Students who start wondering how to pay their loans after graduation are going back to Farrington and Braun to follow up a conversation that sparked sometime in the school year.
Almost every week Farrington and Braun are interacting with students at the UWM Union -- the center of campus life -- courtesy of the ROTC student association. At the Union, only student associations are able to have a table setup to promote their programs.
In the past two years, Farrington and Braun have been building relationships with the school and increasing activities on campus in conjunction with Cadet Command's Lt. Col. Robert Kaderavek, professor of military science at Marquette University. Kaderavek's mission has been to restore the officer commissioning program at UWM and to expand it to diverse students. A mere increase in numbers is not his objective.
"We are looking for good leaders who want to train and become officers," Kaderavek said. "We have more demand for our contracts than we have supply, but currently we are falling short of our diversity goal. In order to attain the strongest officer corps, our commissioned officers need to represent the general population that we protect and serve."
He does not presume to address this Army priority by himself. By leveraging Farrington and Braun's networks, Kaderavek was able to spearhead Military Appreciation Night with UWM athletics and the Black Cultural Center on the cusp of Black History Month.
"We all have to do more with less, and we have the objective of increasing diversity in our officer corps," said Kaderavek. "That doesn't stop at Cadet Command, the National Guard or USAREC. It's the old 'one team, one fight' principle by coming together and massing our resources. It's the Army who wins in the end."
Ray Fikes, Black Cultural Center interim director, said he supports ROTC because the program supports students with educational and leadership opportunities.
"ROTC is another option students can look at to stay in school," Fikes said.
Retention at UWM is a major concern for Fikes at a time when students are losing the financial resources they once enjoyed.
"There are grants that have been cut from a federal standpoint. Now students are beginning to look at other resources," Fikes said.
ROTC scholarships are resources yet to be tapped by minority students at UWM. Financial benefits include potential for a full-tuition scholarship, an annual book allowance and a tax-free stipend of up to $500 a month. In this fiscal year alone, Cadet Command financed nearly $280 million in scholarships across the nation.
But money for college is not the only message that Kaderavek, Farrington and Braun are relaying to UWM students. Service to the nation has greater intangible benefits. The Army turns quality individuals into leaders and prepares them for long-term success.