May 5, 2022.
It was a blistering Thursday afternoon on the Horseshoe, but 62 members of the Army ROTC Gamecock Battalion waited eagerly to recite the oath to their country that would turn them from cadets into 2nd lieutenants in the U.S. military officer corps. This sizeable cohort of students—almost double the percentage of the mission assigned to the university’s ROTC by Cadet Command—set the Gamecock Battalion apart not only from the other 38 university ROTC programs in the 4th Brigade, but also above all other ROTC programs in the nation. This success is just one of the accomplishments that elevated the battalion for recognition as a winner of the MacArthur Award.
The award is bestowed annually upon eight Army ROTC brigades that rank highly according to metrics such as cadet achievements and performance, retention rates, and commissioning percentage, as well as character, physical prowess, commitment to community service and academic excellence.
But chasing rankings isn’t what led to the Gamecock Battalion’s recognition as one of the best of the best. “I wanted to ensure that the cadets were prepared to commission into the United States Army —that’s my mission,” says Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Rausch, who heads the Army ROTC program at the University of South Carolina. “I concentrate on teaching a solid curriculum well, preparing my cadets physically, ensuring my cadre is certified and knows what they’re doing, continuing to better our position throughout the academic year, and doing the best we can.”
In addition to Rausch’s continual striving for excellence, the ROTC program is flourishing thanks to its strong partnerships. The program has a partnership with athletics that provides cadets and midshipmen access to quality physical training, preventative care and nutrition. The Gamecock Battalion has also benefited from its relationship with the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, which has been instrumental in allowing the university to focus more intentionally on issues impacting the veteran and military community on campus.
“President Amiridis and Provost Arnett have been incredibly supportive since they got to campus last summer,” says Jared Evans, executive director of the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. “I believe we as a university, and our department specifically, are in the best spot we’ve ever been in, for as long as I’ve been involved in this effort.”
Thanks to this increased focus on supporting military-affiliated Gamecocks, the ROTC building will be undergoing renovations and has already begun to benefit from updated technology and increased resources to the program. According to Evans, the investment has been worth it.
“ROTC as a population are an incredible value-add to the university,” he says. “They excel academically, increase diversity and minority representation, and when they graduate, they’re graduating with guaranteed jobs as officers in the military.”
In 2022, USC earned the #1 ranking from Military Times on the Best for Vets: Colleges list, placing ahead of more than 300 public and private universities. The top ROTC ranking reinforces the university’s sustained efforts in this area.
“Last year, really this entire academic year, has been the culmination of five years of laying a lot of solid groundwork across the university landscape to develop genuine, authentic partnerships in a very organic way,” Evans says. “We’ve seen a collective advancement in terms of recognition for what USC is doing to support their military-affiliated student population.”
Like Evans, Rausch emphasizes that it takes teamwork to achieve the kind of success that USC is seeing.
“It was a lot of hard work, and it certainly isn’t just us,” says Rausch. “The cadets play a huge part, obviously; the cadre, the professional officers and non-commissioned officers that work for me; the relationships with our peers, the faculty and staff. Getting prestigious awards is certainly not the focus of the program, but we are very proud of them.”