SAIPAN (Dec. 9, 2020) – Many ROTC programs have had to adjust the way they teach classes and do training in the current COVID environment – finding new, safe ways to ensure Cadets are still receiving the training needed to someday commission as second lieutenants.
For the ROTC Cadets at Northern Marianas College in Saipan, COVID created a new challenge – quarantine restrictions meant they wouldn’t have an ROTC instructor on the island for the entire semester. With their instructor living in quarantine on the island of Guam, the NMU Cadets were hoping for a miracle.
Capt. Thomas Vu, Assistant Professor of Military Science and Officer in Charge of Training for the NMC ROTC program, came up with plan to train MNC’s ROTC Cadets in person earlier this year – by going into quarantine for them.
“Before COVID hit, I was actively involved with Cadets, staff and training at NMC because I am a primary teacher for MSL1 and Leadership in Physical Conditioning at NMC while also teaching ROTC at the University of Guam where I live. I travel every month to Saipan to teach at Northern Marianas College,” he said. “After COVID hit, I wanted to meet Cadets face-to-face and show them that we had not forgotten about them.”
Vu provided instruction for the Saipan Cadets for a week in late October of this year. The classes were held at Northern Marianas College. Vu said there were 22 Cadets registered for fall 2020, but the classrooms could only hold 10 students at a time, causing the students to have to be split into two sessions.
Vu decided to teach the Cadets in person to make sure they didn’t get left behind due to various electronic connection issues students were having.
“I had taught two online sessions with them from Guam and not many were able to take part due to connection issues, or they didn’t have a computer, smartphone or Wi-Fi to get online. I expressed my concerns to the PMS and said I wanted to travel down to Saipan to teach them in person,” Vu explained. “I called Saipan Public Health and found out there have been zero cases of community transmission within the last four months, so I knew the chance of me getting COVID in Saipan was very low.
“I got tested for COVID three days before leaving Guam to go down to Saipan, and when I arrived in Saipan I was tested again at the airport and had another COVID test five days later while I was in quarantine,” he added. “I was released from quarantine Oct. 22 and we conducted our first physical fitness training at 6 a.m. the next day with in class instruction later that day.”
During his time in Saipan, Vu taught classes about Army Leadership, Basic Map Reading, Basic Land Navigation, the U.S Army, Basic First Aid, the Profession of Arms, the Seven Army Values and the Warrior Ethos.
At the end of the week of instruction, Vu took another COVID test the day before he headed back to Guam, and was quarantined for 10 days in Guam and took another COVID test before going back to his normal duties at the University of Guam.
Vu said all of the testing and quarantines were worth the risks to ensure the Cadets were still able to complete their military science classes.
“I volunteered because I had seen what Typhoon Yuto did to Saipan in 2018, and the Saipan community had been devastated and hasn’t been able to recover totally yet. However, ROTC enrollment down in Saipan has increased by 200% compared to previous year and I didn’t want to lose any of our Cadets,” he said. “I thought if I can teach them in person, I can show them what right looks like and share with them the concrete experience of Army leadership and leading by example.”
“I am the first leadership that can mentor and coach them since this is usually their first interaction with any Army officer. They are still young and don’t have any bad habits as leaders yet; this allowed me to mentor, coach and counseling them properly to instill those values,” he added.
Cadet Kody Babauta said he felt fortunate to have Vu come in to provide training in person.
“We are lucky to have an Instructor like Captain Vu come to Saipan and teach at NMC during this pandemic. Our classes with Captain Vu were very informative and fun to all the Cadets. Everyone had a great time during his instruction here on Saipan and all the cadets enjoyed it, from his class sessions to morning PT. We appreciated his willingness to sacrifice his time and health to fly over and teach face-to-face classes for us,” he shared.
Cadet Tyrell Ngewakl said he took the lesson of Army values to heart by Vu’s example.
“I feel like his sacrifice is absolutely the embodiment of Selfless Service,” he said. “Giving up 15 days - half a month - just to teach all of us here on Saipan shows us all about how great a leader is from the Army. He is an inspiration I intend to reach on in the future so that I may inspire those who fall under me.”
Cadet Frannie Manibusan echoed his sentiments.
“It was great to see Captain Vu again. Due to the pandemic, I understand the hardships that must have been going on, but I am grateful that he sacrificed and took the time to come to Saipan to teach and train us,” she said. “His sacrifice shows me his continued commitment to not just the Army but to us NMC cadets. Since I've met Captain Vu, he has always encouraged, inspired, and motivated me to keep pushing through and never giving up. He has consistently shown me that he cares about myself and the other NMC Cadets and our progress in the program. He has helped me become a better version of me, I am forever grateful to have met him and have him as my mentor.”
Army ROTC produces approximately 70 percent of the officers entering the Army each year and is available through nearly 1,000 college campuses nationwide ranging from Harvard to Berkley -- from Tufts to Ohio State. Army ROTC teaches leadership and discipline, management techniques, cultural awareness and problem solving. Those who participate in Army ROTC and subsequently serve as Army officers develop leadership and managerial skills that last a lifetime.