Fort Knox, Ky. (June 10, 2016) -- Some of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps most impressive alumni were in attendance today as U.S. Army Cadet Command inducted its first group of former ROTC Cadets into its Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Brooks Field here June 10.
Of the 326 former Cadets inducted into the Hall of Fame, more than 100 were in attendance for the ceremony to be recognized for their service to the country.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, opened the ceremony by sharing his pride in the role each of the ROTC alumni played in developing leaders for 100 years.
"General George Washington once said, "There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet an enemy," and that is what ROTC is all about -- developing leaders who are prepared, who are ready to meet any enemy, on any battlefield, at any time, and win," he said. "Army ROTC has had, and continues to have, an exceptionally positive impact on our nation, not just in our defense, but in the development of our citizenry, and much of that credit belongs to the men and women who stand before us today on this field."
He went on to say it was humbling to learn about the history of each inductee and what they had done with the training they had received at their respective ROTC programs -- starting with one of its most well-known alumni.
"When I opened the first folder, I was awestruck and as I sat back in the chair. It was then that it dawned on me the significance of today -- I was about to sign the certificate to induct General George C. Marshall into the ROTC National Hall of Fame. I didn't feel qualified," he said. "The more I read, the more I signed, I realized each of you and your families are doing everything that I would ever dare ask you to do -- that is exactly why you are our founding class of the ROTC National Hall of Fame."
Gen. (retired) Carter Ham, former commander of the U.S. Africa Command, was the key note speaker for the event. He shared his story on becoming an officer through ROTC with the crowd.
"I came to ROTC by happenstance. I had enlisted and was serving in the 82nd Airborne Division and had risen to the exalted position of being the battalion command sergeant major's driver," he said. "One day I saw a note in Soldiers magazine announcing a new program that would allow enlisted Soldiers who had some college to go back to school and gain a commission through ROTC (Green to Gold). Without a whole lot of thought frankly, I filled out the form and sent it in, and promptly forgot about it."
Ham said later when he was contacted as a result of that note, he almost passed up the opportunity that would change his life forever. But thanks to some encouraging advice from his sergeant major, he took up the challenge to become an Army officer.
"I was not going to do it. I had just become eligible to appear before the promotion board for sergeant and that's what I wanted to do," said Ham. "It (ROTC) turned out to be exactly the right choice for me. I found my calling to serve as an Army officer."
Ham said it was an honor to serve his country, and to be a part of the first group inducted into the ROTC National Hall of Fame.
"We are simply 326 representatives of 650,000 Army ROTC graduates -- examples of what ROTC has done for our Army and for our nation for 100 years," he said. "Officers commissioned through ROTC bring a depth and breadth of experiences to the ranks which make the Army stronger."
"Whether they serve for a few years or for many, ROTC graduates make a difference across our Army and across our nation. They have done so for 100 years and will continue to do so for another 100."
He also recognized the value of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
"The immense benefit to the nation from Junior ROTC is that those students and Cadets not only become better leaders, they become better citizens. In my view, that's a highly worthy investment," he said.
He finished his comments by reminding the inductees of their place in history.
"Each of us has our own story, but for me and for all so honored today, we can say with honesty, with sincerity and great pride, our stories, our legends started with ROTC," he said.
The U.S. Army Cadet Command is the largest single source of new officers for the Army, commissioning the majority of the Army's new officers each year through the senior ROTC program.