While the COVID-19 pandemic has kept them apart, Army ROTC students at the University of Missouri have pulled together virtually, developing new ways to engage members and maintain community.
Army Cadet Battalion Commander Shade Bullock said some students are inspiring others to exercise and maintain their physical training requirements by uploading videos of their at-home workouts to the Army ROTC’s Instagram account.
“It’s important in an online environment like this to make sure that cadets are staying motivated, she said. “This is a great way to do that.”
Another source of inspiration is the Fire Team Families, a mentorship program that connects cadets with older ROTC members in a ladder system designed to encourage new members to move up the order.
“Everyone is connected with their families on GroupMe, and that’s a way we’ve been trying to encourage members as well,” Bullock said. “Checking up on each other’s mental health as well as physical health is really important. We’re a family, not just a program.”
Additionally, the students have established a private Facebook group where members encourage each other to reach their training goals. By engaging in different groups and activities, the students are maintaining the same sense of camaraderie and team building they developed on campus.
Captain David Dry, the commander of the MU Naval ROTC Unit, isn’t surprised ROTC students are pioneering ways to overcome obstacles. After all, ROTC training prepares cadets to overcome barriers.
“Being in the military is very dynamic, even in a normal environment,” Dry said. “This is a tremendous real-time opportunity for us to train midshipmen on what it means to be flexible, as well as adapting and overcoming obstacles.”
During the school year, Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC cadets are typically required to attend weekly, in-person naval science labs. The pandemic, however, has forced the programs to be modified for online access.
In some cases, the new online format has been surprisingly beneficial. For Lieutenant Colonel Gary Kerr, the department head of the MU Army ROTC program, Zoom meetings have inspired new ways to teach tactical programs next spring.
“I think the cadets get more out of learning in tactical labs virtually than they would outside in the colder early spring season,” he said. “It’s an interesting way to teach platoon tactics that allows everyone to hear and see everything while being very engaged.”