There are hundreds of organizations on-campus and off that Tufts students can participate in during their four years here. One of the more obscure organizations Tufts students can participate in is ROTC- Reserve Officer Training Corps. There’s a pretty small population of ROTC students on campus, though I’d say that number and ROTC’s presence is only expanding. But at least in my experience, as a prospective student I had a lot of difficulty trying to understand what it really means to be in ROTC, and found it even more difficult to understand how that would fit into my everyday life as a student at Tufts. I can’t speak to the schedule of an Army or Air Force student, as each branch has unique schedules and experiences. However, officially surviving my first semester as a Navy ROTC student as of this month, I’d like to give a little background on what it’s really like to be part student and part officer-in-training, while still finding a way to have some type of a social life.
First of all, you’re gonna have to get up early. Super early. We have physical training (PT) at 6:00 AM twice a week at MIT, followed directly by Naval Science class until 9:00. That means most of us are getting up at 5 to go work out every Tuesday and Thursday. I initially dreaded this concept, but PT is always led by two other midshipmen (the term for NROTC students), and it’s such an encouraging and fun environment that allows you to get your workout out of the way before 7 AM, while keeping the freshman 15 at bay. Besides PT, we have Leadership Lab every Wednesday at 6:30 AM, which also requires a 5 AM wake-up. Before entering college, I knew Leadership Lab was a thing, but had no idea what to expect. It’s essentially like an assembly where midshipmen present briefs on different topics such as naval history, current events, or other navy-pertinent topics. I actually love labs because it gives us a chance to practice public speaking, and we get the chance to hear some really important people talk. By the end of Thursday, we’re done for the week, and we get to have the rest of the week to be regular college students.
One of my biggest issues transitioning to college was not realizing the kind of time commitment NROTC really is, specifically in terms of workload. As 4/C Midshipmen, we have Professional Knowledge to memorize, which is all Navy-related knowledge. It’s overwhelming at first, but I can’t tell you how encouraging it is for me to look back at how little I knew about the Navy before starting ROTC compared to how much I know now. This kind of knowledge is also so applicable to politics and current events, which is something that I take interest in as an International Relations major. Between the Naval Science class and the Professional Knowledge we have to learn, NROTC adds essentially the workload of another class. I’m not saying this to scary anyone off, I just know from my experience I had no idea how ROTC would fit into the rest of my life and how I’d be able to balance it all, because there’s so little info on it as a whole. Even though ROTC gives you a lot of responsibility, it’s much easier to handle because of the people who are there to help you through it.
3. The People
By far, the part of NROTC that makes it the most worth it is the people I’ve met. Everyone comes from such different places and different backgrounds, and the one common factor is that everyone is driven and brilliant. Navy ROTC in Boston is a combination of Tufts, Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, and Northeastern students, but our weekly activities are just with the company you’re in, so for Tufts that’s MIT, Harvard, and us. This means I get to spend three days a week with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Not only are they brilliant, they’re also extremely kind and everyone is looking out for each other. We’re one giant team, so if someone’s struggling, it’s everyone’s responsibility to help each other out. Every time I wake up at 5am, I’m grumpy and not looking forward to the day, but by the end of each PT, I’m so grateful for the group I’m working hard with.
I hope this gives a little insight into the many mysterious aspects of Navy ROTC. It’s a challenging experience, but that’s what makes it so rewarding and I truly can’t imagine my life here at Tufts without it.
This photo is from our Joint-Service Field meet where each branch competed against each other in field activities, and Navy won!