Inspiring others in Union’s ROTC program

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Reserve Officer Training Cadets in a training exercise en route to becoming an officer in the military, (Courtesy of Kate Kozain)

When you think of every job buzzword, team work, managing, dedicated, role model, camaraderie — the cadets of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program fit the bill and beyond.

The ROTC program allows these students to attend a civilian college and receive training to become an officer in the military.

At Union, we have four students involved in the ROTC program: Kate Kozain ’16, Thomas Glading ’16, Stephen Hoeprich ’16 and Erin Besch ’19.

Glading had originally wanted go to West Point in high school; however, it didn’t work out because they ended up cutting numbers. Luckily, he qualified for an ROTC scholarship.

“I didn’t even know what an ROTC scholarship was at the time, but I took it and ran with it. It turned out that Union was part of an ROTC program at nearby Siena College. That’s why I joined,” explained Glading.

Both Besch’s parents were in the military. “I found out about ROTC my senior year of high school because I was not interested in going to West Point, mainly because they didn’t have the subjects that I wanted to study. I applied for the program ROTC and got a four-year scholarship and Union was the school that I really liked out of all them. So I came here for the program,” elaborated Besch

Hoeprich, like Besch, also had family in the military. Both Hoeprich’s brothers were in the military and had done ROTC. “I decided that I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Originally, I wanted to be in the Air Force, but I came to my senses and decided to go to the Army instead. I wanted to go to a regular four-year college as opposed to West Point because my personality would not do well there,” explained Hoeprich.

“I thought about joining after my brother joined the service. I was thinking about either getting a scholarship for medical school or going through medical school through the army. I applied for a scholarship, didn’t get it. Got to Union and then enrolled in ROTC and got a three-and-half-year scholarship. Now I’m going to be a Medical Service Corps officer,” described Kozain.

The three seniors’ paths are pretty much set at this point — Hoeprich will be going to the Army National Guard, and Glading and Kozain will be going into full-time active duty for four years.

All the commitments are different depending on which force you choose to go into. Active duty serves four years full-time.

Another option, the National Guard, is an eight-year commitment, and in this time you do military training one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer and any deployments.

Hoeprich wants to be able to pursue a civilian job at the same time as his military commitment, which is why he made the choice to join the Army National Guard. Glading is going to active duty infantry branch, because with this contract after four years of active duty, he would be promoted to a captain and be an intelligence officer.

Kozain plans on being a Medical Service Corps officer as a medevac pilot, if she qualifies. Besch, although a first year, is thinking about doing something in the medical field but is not sure yet if she will do reserves or active duty.

Being in the ROTC program takes between 30-70 hours per week. “It is basically comparable to a division one sport. The ROTC program has extracurricular programs there, but because we all commute it’s time consuming to do. We have a commute of about 45 minutes if there is no traffic, physical training three times a week and usually have to wake up before five in the morning. One day a week, each grade level has their own class for military science. On Thursday, all the cadets are doing leadership labs,” explained Kozain.

The ROTC program is not just for Union students, but for all people from the Capital Region coming together to participate and go to class together.

Physical training is intense — in fact, Hoeprich lost 25 pounds in one term his first year at Union from it. “Physical training tries to combine conventional fitness with military physical training. Military physical training includes ruck marches, army crawls and rope climbing. All intended to keep people physically fit, represent the uniform well, create camaraderie and to prepare for the army physical fitness test,” clarified Glading.

“I wouldn’t say I have a favorite part or enjoy it in the moment, but later on I appreciate the skills I have attained through the training. I enjoy hanging out with everyone, but it’s a lot of work. I learned time management skills, how to prioritize and how to work with other people. So many skills are applicable to life and future schooling. I’m not worried about it because I feel very prepared. Being able to influence people who are our age is incredible. I have had students come up to me who are a year younger than me tell me that I’m their role model. It is really great to be a positive role model to people and I don’t know many other 21-year-olds can say that they are someone’s role model,” elaborated Kozain.

Hoeprich feels he has grown so much from the program, “I never would have been able to see myself doing what I’m doing now as a freshman. The change that I have gone through over just the last year alone is tremendous. I went from not really being able to talk to anyone at all to being able to brief a room full of 25 people. That just comes from the challenges thrown at us,” described Hoeprich.

As a first year, Besch is excited be where her senior peers are now. “I see how much people respect them and know that one day I’ll be where they are. The program is amazing for preparing you to do that. I have a long way to go though,” elaborated Besch.

“Thank you to the faculty here for being so supportive. When my brother went to school in the late ’90s. The attitude towards the military was a lot different than it is now and a lot of the professors wouldn’t even let him come into the classroom. I think it’s amazing that I can come in and if someone sees me in my uniform they say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ even though we haven’t served yet. This campus is really supportive and I’m grateful for that,” concluded Hoeprich.


Correction, 2/21/16: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated several details about the ROTC program, the National Guard and army marches. The marches are called ruck marches; the ROTC program involves a commitment of 30-70 hours per week; and the National Guard is an eight-year commitment. It also misstated Kate Kozain’s hopes for her future in the army. Kozain hopes to become a medevac pilot during her time serving as a Medical Service Corps officer.

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