The University of South Carolina is committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive learning, living, and working environment where all members of the university’s community feel that they are valued and supported through three specific strategies, that are embedded in the President Caslen’s 8 Strategic Priorities: 1) Enhancing the diversity of our campus community 2) Providing the support needed for every member of our university community to be successful in their teaching, learning, research, scholarship, and work 3) Engaging our university community in the learning, understanding and practice of diversity, inclusion and equity; and, foster a welcoming and inclusive university community.
Similarly, the United States Army has a new enhanced diversity strategy for 2021, that includes increasing minority representation within their officer ranks, by assessing how the service recruits and mentors personnel, such as ROTC, at universities across the country. Through the Crosstown Enrollment Program and partnerships with HBCU’s in the state of South Carolina, the USC Army ROTC battalion is helping both, the University of South Carolina and the United States Army achieve their individual mission of growing diversity within their respective organizations.
Todd McCaffrey, Major General, U.S. Army (Ret) and current Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships for Military & Government Programs at USC, shared, “Racial and ethnic diversity is a key objective for the U.S. Army. Crosstown enrollment programs that link the University of South Carolina’s world class Army ROTC program to the deep and diverse student talent found in our neighboring HBCU’s is a win-win-win. It’s a path to an Army career for the HBCU student; it increases positive diversity on our USC campus; and, most importantly, it develops a leader of character for our Nation’s Army capable of leading its sons and daughters in peace and war.”
The ROTC crosstown enrollment program allows students at universities and colleges who do not have individual ROTC programs, to enroll at partner universities as ROTC cadets. Upon graduation, they will commission as an officer into the U.S. Army. USC Army ROTC has partnerships with Benedict College, Allen University, and Morris College, and currently has 17 cadets cross enrolled between USC and Benedict.
Anthony Robertson, Army ROTC Coordinator at Benedict College, shared “when I started in 2018, there were only four contracted traditional cadets and three Green to Gold cadets from Benedict in the program. Today there are 12 contracted traditional cadets and five Green to Gold cadets, for a total of 17 cadets committed to serve as Army 2nd Lieutenants when they graduate.” Mr. Robertson emphasized his excitement about what has taken place since he has been there, and what the future will hold for HBCU cadets who enroll in the USC Army ROTC program.
Dexter Washington, who has served 11 years in the U.S. Army and was a drill sergeant at Ft. Jackson before enrolling at Benedict College, is one of the six cadets who will graduate and commission as an officer this May. Dexter shared his thoughts about the program and the opportunity it provides for future officers:
“The program and partnership between BC and USC is phenomenal, and provided an opportunity to build camaraderie with a larger group of cadets and cadre at USC. The program also provided access to premier facilities, which was invaluable this past year since BC’s campus has been closed due to COVID-19.”
Upon graduation, Dexter will commission as a 2nd Lt. and will head to Quartermaster School in Ft. Lee Virginia.
Lieutenant Colonel Lou Frketic, USC Army ROTC Professor of Military Science, has overseen the growth of the program and provided additional insights and perspective of the benefits of the partnerships. LTC Frketic stated:
“The Gamecock Battalion is an elite Top 15% ROTC Battalion – the largest program in the mid-Atlantic region outside of the senior military colleges. The strength of our program comes from the quality of our cadets, which includes a diverse group of different races and genders. More than 10% of our students come from our crosstown HBCU partners at Benedict College, Allen University, and Morris College. The diversity of background, thought, and race that our HBCU cadets provide is a critical component to the success of the Gamecock Battalion.”
As the U.S. Army continues to explore new approaches to grow minority representation within the officer ranks, there is no doubt that USC Army ROTC’s battalion, through its partnerships with HBCU’s across the state of South Carolina, is having a direct impact on achieving that mission. Innovation through diversity and inclusion is critically important and was emphasized by Melissa Quintanilla, who enrolled in the program this past Fall, and was most recently the Aide de Camp for Brigadier General Beagle at Fort Jackson. Melissa expressed:
“Programs like this have established ways for both schools to unite and create opportunities of inclusion for students to succeed beyond the classroom. The growth will retain a stronger talent base for the USC ROTC battalion, and continue to build diverse relationships, which will breed innovation and teamwork within the officer ranks of the U.S. Army”.
Click here to learn more about USC’s Army ROTC Battalion.