Vermonters who live around Burlington Airport may notice a flurry of military aircraft and helicopters this week as they transport a number of senior military officers to Norwich University to celebrate the Centennial of the Reserve Officers Training Program, or ROTC.
It’s a celebration in which Vermonters can take a great deal of pride.
Two hundred years ago, Captain Alden Partridge, founder of Norwich University, came to the conclusion that the then traditional curriculum in American colleges didn’t adequately meet the needs of a rapidly developing nation that was racing to expand westwards. So, in 1819 he set up the first college in the United States to include military education into its regular curriculum. He called it the American Literary, Scientific, and Military academy - now Norwich University.
Thanks to Partridge’s vision of citizen-soldiers, equally adept in peace and war, the Westward expansion of America was powered by graduates of Norwich University, who were highly prized as surveyors, draftsmen, artists, nurses, engineers, geologists, and yes, superbly trained soldiers. And it’s to this vision of a citizen soldier, perfected at Norwich University, that modern ROTC, set up by an act of Congress in 1916, traces its heritage.
From Governor Shumlin’s official proclamation Thursday morning and the arrival on campus of the Army Chief of Staff, General Milley, the celebrations at Norwich will combine pomp and pageantry, but also hard work - as the Generals and dignitaries join Norwich’s faculty and students to discuss the 21st Century’s need for a new breed of citizen-soldier who can work comfortably in countries with diverse cultures, in a world dominated by drones and cyber warfare. These discussions will help tailor the ROTC of tomorrow.
Through it all, Norwich will do what it has done so well for two centuries, lay the seeds for producing the next generation of leaders - citizens and soldiers - to lead this country through a new century in a new world.