Why UMBC should welcome ROTC

The Baltimore Sun

As an alumnus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I hope that UMBC will accept an ROTC department on its campus.

This hope is not based on some historical argument on the past progressive nature of the U.S. military, or on some proposed advantage to anyone who might join. This argument is simply a question of: Who will replace me?

I have just completed my second one-year tour in Iraq in the last three years. Little did I expect all those years ago, when I had to commute across Baltimore between UMBC and Loyola College, that at the age of 46, I would be completing my second war deployment. (I joined the reserves 20 years ago.) Nor could I expect that at the age of 44, I would be engaged in combat alongside Iraqi soldiers in the streets of Muqdadiyah in Diyala province as a military adviser in an Iraqi army unit. Although the popular expectation is that combat soldiers should be much younger than 44, my experience was not unique. In my two tours in Iraq, I have seen a lot of gray hair, and many of the owners of these gray heads have been on multiple tours.

I am willing to return again and again, whenever and wherever, as long as required. I am not alone in this, either.

But who will replace me and people like me? Should I be replaced with a mercenary? Should I be replaced with a contractor? Should I be replaced with the soldier of an ally or a coalition partner? Should I be replaced by some member of a military caste, a modern "second estate" cultivated in isolation and educated in secluded, elite institutions?

Barring the simultaneous and permanent conversion of the world's population to peace and nonviolence, we will need to replace me and all those who have served with me - eventually. We will need to provide a human face to our military to be effective and successful. We cannot win hearts and minds with technology and automation, however powerful. We can only win with people.

What better way do we have to replace me and my generation than with the new generation, drawn from the community and educated in liberal values in a public liberal arts college or university? What better way to ensure the future of the military we want than to have its members start their careers in a system based on merit, where merit is defined by public academia? Isn't it better that they attend school before they become veterans rather than after?

Whom do we want to represent us in the military theater on the world's stage? Whom do we want to put that "human face" on our military policy? This is our chance to create the future. Undoubtedly, not everyone will want to join, and policy decisions will keep others from joining, but by ROTC and traditional students attending school together, they will develop a common bond and have the opportunity to know each other.

In my view, the placement of an ROTC department at a college is not the militarization of a campus but the socialization of the military.


Chris Isgrig of Bel Air returned from his second tour in Iraq in April

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