As a teen, one who attended an all girls private school, I only heard the letters ROTC in passing. We had a neighbor whose son, around my age talked about possibly joining the program at his school. Enter the social media age in the 2000’s and the occasional friend posts photos of their child(ren) participating in ROTC drills or activities. Flash forward another handful of years, my son as a boy scout knows several older scouts participating in ROTC programs at their high schools yet I have still no clue what the program is or does other than to have an affiliation with our military services.
ROTC is an acronym for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and its goal is to train young adults for a future in the branches of the U.S. Military. The Army, Air Force and Navy each have their own ROTC program offered at more than 1700 colleges and universities throughout the US. In exchange for a paid college tuition and a guaranteed post-college career, cadets commit to serve in the military after their college graduation.The Air Force also has a Jr. ROTC program offered at many public high schools throughout the country.
The JROTC and ROTC programs share a point of origin: the National Defense Act of 1916. The passage of this legislation united military training resources under a single federal umbrella. This allowed high schools and colleges to obtain military training instructors and supply funding from a single ROTC organization. Title 10 Section 2031 of the U.S. Code describes how JROTC programs provide students with at least three years of military instruction, along with access to uniforms, academic materials, and instructors who have served as U.S. Armed Forces officers. According to numbers published by the U.S. Army, over 500,000 high school students serve as JROTC cadets across all the branches.
Often, the strongest reason for students to enroll in a ROTC program is the benefit of paid college tuition, fees, books and other necessities of college life. While the offset of these costs is certainly helpful, it is important to remember that ROTC scholarships come with the commitment of mandatory active duty service after completion of a bachelor’s degree program. In addition to the financial benefits, enrollment in an ROTC program provides young adults the opportunity to develop technical and leadership skills, a structured path to a career after college, specialized professional training for military officer positions after college and long-term career guidance and continued professional education.
Even if a student has not participated in high school JR ROTC, they can still apply and participate at the beginning of their college career. At the collegiate level, each branch (minus the Coast Guard which has its own similar program) has its own specialized ROTC program.
The types of training programs, service commitments and possible career specialities vary from branch to branch. The Army’s program, arguably the most popular among college students and offered at over 1000 colleges and universities, cadets receive training in army leadership, military tactics, principles of war and combat survival training. Cadets commit to serve for three to eight years, depending on scholarship level. Among the many career paths within the Army cadets pursue futures within the infantry, military intelligence, civil affairs and the medical corps. The Air Force’s program is nearly as popular and offered at just as many colleges and universities across the country. Participants train and study laws of armed conflict, international security, aerospace studies and field training among other studies and areas of concentration. Individuals serve between four and ten years depending on contract cadet appointment. Cadets can pursue a future in air battle management, aircraft maintenance, cyberspace operations, piloting and tactical air control. The US Navy and the Marine Corps share one program for both branches offered at over 150 institutes of higher learning across the country. Cadets participate in summer cruise training, surface warfare orientation, flight time on navy aircraft, and maritime self-defense programs. Cadets commit to serve between 3-12 years of active military service, depending on scholarship acceptance and degree level. After completion of the program cadets can pursue futures in submarine, explosive ordnance disposal, US Marine Corps, Navy Nursing Corps among other careers within both branches.
Many young adults considering a path in the armed forces choose to participate in Junior ROTC programs at their local high school. Students may be eligible to enroll as early as the 9th grade. Each branch of the military has their own program for this age group and are available throughout both public and private high schools as well as alternative learning centers throughout the country. Citizenship, leadership, character and community service are the core tenets of high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, or JROTC. Those values are at the heart of the JROTC Cadet Creed that emphasizes working to better the cadet’s family, school and country. The primary goal of the Junior ROTC program is good citizenship. Students who participate in JROTC are not required to join the military after high school and the program is not a military preparation class. JROTC programs are taught by retired service members. Course work includes military history and customs – which is typically branch-specific – and students are required to wear a uniform that mirrors what military personnel wear in their respective branches. Students typically only need to wear their full uniform once per week throughout the entire school year and part of their grade is dependent on their compliance with the uniform policy. Full uniforms must always be worn for JROTC events outside of the classroom. Among other activities students often take part in physical fitness training and drill instruction.
Joining the ROTC or JROTC can be a fulfilling experience for many young adults about to embark on their futures. It is important to keep in mind, at the college level, that active duty service is mandatory as part of the program. That choice may not be right for everyone. For those who have the dedication and drive to embark on this journey it is the unique chance to have a head start in their career with the military. ROTC cadets (students in training) cannot be called for service until they graduate and finish the program, so there are no interruptions while in school for an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree. There are many opportunities for postgraduate education and scholarships for ROTC graduates after fulfilling active duty, so the program can also prepare cadets for a life and career after their service.
One of the most daunting details of a college education is perhaps also the biggest blockade as well: the cost of school and the ability to afford tuition. Even local community schools often come with fees that are beyond the scope of a military family. Fortunately, Fisher House Foundation and select companies make scholarships earmarked for Military children possible.
Over the past 17 years, the Fisher House Foundation has administered scholarship grants to nearly 11,000 students. These grants are courtesy of the Defense Commissary Agency and its business partners. Fisher House Foundation has volunteered to award and administer the funds, ensuring that every penny raised is awarded to a deserving recipient.
The nearly 11,000 students over the years have been selected from over 90,000 applicants. Potential applicants are eligible if they are the child of an active duty servicemember, reservist, guard or a retired commissary customer. All eligible applicants should also have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and be enrolled or enrolling in a 2- or 4-year degree program for the upcoming fall. Applications are currently being accepted for the Fall 2019 Semester.
Do you have a college student or graduating senior? The 2019 program application is currently available. Applications must be submitted online by February 15th.
Applicants will be reviewed by Scholarship Managers, a scholarship management firm. This professional firm contracts with Fisher House Foundation. All applicants are evaluated and the most qualified of the group are awarded. 500 Grants will be awarded for the 2019-2020 Academic year. Each grant will be $2,000. To ensure that all funds raised are awarded as scholarship grants, Fisher House Foundation does not charge for its services and covers the cost of the scholarship management contract.
The entirety of the program is funded by Commissary business partners. It is through the extreme generosity that the scholarship fund is even possible. Manufacturers and suppliers keep products on shelves at Commissaries worldwide and the purchase of those products fund the Scholarships for Military Children program.
For more information regarding the scholarship program, application instructions and sponsor information, please visit https://militaryscholar.org/sfmc/index.html.
Per the Fisher House Foundation website and corresponding press releases regarding the Scholarships for Military Children program:
The Defense Commissary Agency and Fisher House Foundation gratefully acknowledge the support and monetary donations of all contributors and especially the following business partners for the 2018 scholarship program:
Four Star Donors – $50,000 or greater
Fisher House Foundation
Reynolds Consumer Products
Three Star Donors – $25,000 to $49,999
Kahlert Foundation, Inc.
MDV, A SpartanNash Company
Procter & Gamble
Two Star Donors – $10,000 to $24,999
Dial, a Henkel Company
Ferrara Candy Company
Frank and Joanna Hogan
J.M. Smucker Company
One Star Donors – $2,000 to $9,999
American Logistics Association – Hampton Roads Chapter
Association of US Army – MG Greene Chapter
Commander William S. Stuhr Scholarship Fund
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
In Honor of MSgt. Loyd J. Rockhold, USMC
Lt. Col. Ron Mattana Scholarship Fund
PepsiCo “In Memory of Murry Greenwald”
SC Johnson, A Family Company
The Hershey Company
Unilever William and Helen Sherman
Supporting Brokers & Distributors Representatives
Acosta Sales & Marketing
Advantage Sales & Marketing
American Logistics Association
Coastal Pacific Food Distributors
Dunham & Smith Agencies
Exchange & Commissary News
Favata Bakery, Inc.
Military Media Inc.
Military Deli & Bakery Services, Inc.
Military Times / Sightline Media Group
Northeast Military Sales
Overseas Service Corp. / Webco Services Co
It’s officially 2019 – and while the year is only a day and a half old, many of us have been thinking about our resolutions and how to make our lives better in the new year. Some of us will be starting a diet and new fitness routine. Some of us will be cleaning and organizing our homes. Some of us will be working on our budgets and finances. If there is a still a longing in your heart for a change that doesn’t fit these descriptions, perhaps a change in your education might help you along your journey.
Making the jump to being a student again can be daunting. There are more choices available now than ever before and many decisions need to be made before the application process even begins.
Step 1: What do you like?
What do you like? At what do you readily excel? There are bound to be activities in your life that bring you joy that could be turned into an academic program and possibly career. Sit down and make a list of your strengths, passions, likes and activities. Once you have made that list, start to explore the academic options that best match up.
Step 2: Match your hobbies with a degree.
In so many cases, a hobby can be turned into a career. Are you passionate about animals? Perhaps a Veterinary assistant would be an ideal career for you! Love children? Pursue a degree in early childhood education. Photography your jam? Look to take photojournalism classes as part of a journalism program. If you can’t stand math classes and hate working with numbers, then it would be counter-productive to pursue a degree in accounting!
Step 3: Look for programs in your area
A great place to start is your local community school. They typically offer a plethora of degrees across a wide variety of disciplines and can be great for adult professionals looking to advance an existing career or jump start a new one. If it turns out that your desired degree requires a four year or more commitment, your local community school can probably point you in the right direction as well. Don’t forget about online degrees – depending on what you are going for, the online option might be the best way to pursue your academic dreams without uprooting your entire family.
Step 4: Pick a program and apply!
Hitting the “apply now” button is sometimes the scariest thing! The leap of faith of will pay off, however, as you truly won’t know until you try.
Step 5: Explore your GI Benefits and change your future!
You’ve served your country and now deserve the opportunity for self-exploration and improvement. Be sure to mention your service time to the advisors you meet along the way and get your documentation together for a smooth process.
Highlights of an Entrepreneurial Education: Boots to Business
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
(This is one of a series of posts relating to entrepreneurship. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment and self-employment topics.)
For many of us, transitioning from the military to the next phase of our lives – going “back on the block”, if you will – consisted of nothing more than getting our hands on a set of clearing papers and looking for signatures, so we could get our final orders for Fort Living Room. In 1993, the first time I left active duty, I was offered some help on putting together a resume and shown how to sort through some arcane database of open jobs…but that was about all, and that was about all I wanted.
The next time I found myself clearing an active duty installation was about 15 years later, and to be sure, there were more opportunities available to help me successfully transition. There was more hardware, more software, and more subject-matter experts to help me navigate my options, but it was still optional and mostly centered around getting help finding a job.
One of the best things the Department of Defense has done for transitioning service members recently, though, was to make the core transition workshop mandatory and add some additional tracks to augment the experience. One of those tracks is a course on entrepreneurship called Boots to Business (B2B).
Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The two-day course, titled “Introduction to Entrepreneurship”, is held at over 180 military installations worldwide and provides an overview of the subject. Active Duty service members (including National Guard and Reserve), veterans, and spouses are eligible to participate. Boots to Business Reboot is a version of the original workshop that takes the event off the military installation and extends access to veterans of all eras. There is no cost to participate, and those that have successfully completed either course are eligible for follow-on Boots to Business courses that cover a variety of topics.
“Introduction to Entrepreneurship” is a TAP training track for those interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges of business ownership and it’s the foundational piece of the larger Boots to Business (B2B) program. Participants are introduced to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts and a business plan, and information on SBA resources available to help. Participants learn business fundamentals and techniques for evaluating the feasibility of their business concepts and are introduced to a broad spectrum of entrepreneurial concepts and the resources available to access start-up capital, technical assistance, contracting opportunities, and more. Subject matter experts from the SBA and its network of partners and skilled business advisors teach the course.
Those partners and business advisors are what makes this event so valuable. While there is some variance from installation to installation, there are a few key organizations that help facilitate the workshop across the country. Those groups include the Veterans Business Outreach Centers, America’s SBDC, SCORE, the Association of Women’s Business Centers, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, members of the National Guard & Reserve, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. There are 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement with the SBA that have the VBOC mission.
Small Business Development Centers (America’s SBDCs) are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies, and private sector partners. There are nearly 1,000 local centers available to provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. on topics that include business planning, accessing capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development, international trade and much more.
SCORE. A nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories, SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors, and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters.
Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). WBCs work to secure entrepreneurial opportunities for women by supporting and sustaining a national network of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers. WBCs help women succeed in business by providing training, mentoring, business development, and financing opportunities to over 145,000 women entrepreneurs each year.
Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). Located at Syracuse University, IVMF is higher education’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, singularly focused on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.
Personally, I think it’s a great benefit that the Department of Defense, the Small Business Administration, and those resource partners have put together for those of us in the military community. I may be a bit biased, however, because over the last 5 years I helped facilitate over 150 Boots to Business workshops across 7 different military installations in 5 states. I’ve spoken with hundreds of folks considering their entrepreneurial options and witnessed plenty of “a-ha” moments. I’ve also seen more than a few come to the realization that ‘small business ownership’ wasn’t for them.
In my opinion, as both a Soldier that has recently transitioned and as a professional facilitator, the Boots to Business workshop is a great course that offers a birds-eye view of some of the key elements of small business ownership. In pretty short order, most participants will figure out if entrepreneurship is something that could be right for them and they’ll know where to turn for more information.
Perhaps you find yourself pining for the day when you can open your own business. Or you and your spouse are already knee-deep in running a successful enterprise, but you’re ready to connect to resources that might help you take it to the next level. Or maybe you just might officially rule out the option of being self-employed, but want it to be an educated decision. For whichever reason, Boots to Business is a good starting point and will likely be a good use of your time.
If you’re still actively serving, contact the transition office at your closest military installation for more information. If you don’t have access to an installation or aren’t close to one, you can visit the program’s website at https://sbavets.force.com/s/. For technical support and registration questions, contact the Boots to Business Help Desk by emailing Boots-to-Business@sba.gov/ or by calling (202) 205-VET1 or (844) 610-VET1. Good luck with your journey!
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!
GI Benefits In Limbo
If you have been attempting to use your GI Benefits lately, you might already know what thousands of Veterans are finding out – your GI Benefits just aren’t coming.
In a technological glitch and resulting nightmare, the VA is experiencing a huge backlog which started after President Trump’s signing of the Forever GI Bill last year. The 2017 legislation expanded benefits for Veterans and their families. However, with bill did not provide for a change in the system infrastructure. The result? A technological bottleneck that has delayed payments to recipients across the country. Initially, the VA was given until August 1, 2018 to put the 34 new provisions in place. That deadline was missed but the promise to hit a mid-August deadline was made. This goal was also missed.
During this week’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Johnny Isakson (R- GA) had the following to say:
“The changes that should’ve been made in information technology weren’t made. The checks and balances we have built into the system weren’t followed.”“It’s come to my attention that the [VA] has screwed up accountability and responsibility for a Forever GI Bill benefit. The changes that should’ve been made in information technology weren’t made. The checks and balances we have built into the system weren’t followed.”
The checks and balances weren’t followed and the results are nearly catastrophic.
According to the VA, at least 82,000 recipients are currently awaiting housing payments. While that number is astronomical, the true number of impacted Americans is unknown. It is estimated that the number is actually in the hundreds of thousands. All involved parties agree that this non-partisan issue needs to be rectified, Representative Phil Roe (R – TN), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, has been quoted as saying “this is, to be kind, a train wreck.” The train wreck continues to take out more collateral damage with every passing day as an increasing number of Veterans find themselves in dire straits without the benefits that they have been promised and were expecting.
While the VA has acknowledged the problem, which first began rearing its ugly head this past summer, there is no concrete or conclusive plan in place to actually fix the debacle. Worse yet, VA officials were warned by advocates and lawmakers that this would happen prior to the system collapse.
Dr. Paul R. Lawrence, top-ranking benefits’ official for the VA, appeared in front of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday and obviously struggled as he attempted to explain the situation and lack of progress. Estimates have been provided previously and remain unmet. At this time, Lawrence claimed the previous timetables were a “mistake” and the VA had no current estimate for when the technological issues might be resolved.
While outdated technology is plaguing the VA in their fulfillment of GI Benefits, it is nearly destroying Veterans who are supposed to be supported by those benefits. With just weeks left to the fall semester, many Veterans find themselves crippled with unexpected housing and academic costs. Heartbreaking stories of Veterans in crisis at the hands of the GI BIll program are popping out of the woodwork every day.
Dan Gorman, former sailor and NY National Guardsman is just one of those stories. Gorman was scheduled to graduate in May 2019, but with the current delays crippling his finances, that goal seems less and less likely every day.
“I can’t afford rent. I can’t afford groceries. It’s a lot of emotional strain and aggravation,” said Gorman.
According to Curt Cashour, VA Press Secretary, the VA has implemented 28 of the 34 changes. However, housing and tuition and reimbursement were not two of them and no estimate was given for when the remaining changes would be completed.
The most unfortunate twist in this mishap is that the VA failed to notify students of the potential pitfalls, even after they were aware. Students, like Gorman and many others, have been waiting for their checks to arrive – but they never do. Given that two of the major changes that have not been rolled out are those that impact living allowances and tuitions, Veterans find themselves unable to afford both school and day-to-day survival.
According to the VA, an additional 200 IT-based employees have been added to staff to assist with the remaining rollouts. The VA has had a year to complete the required IT upgrades and is now nearly four months past the original due date. While the additional staff and pressure from the House may help push the project to completion, it is of little consolation for those Veterans who find themselves being forced to give up their education.
The VA’s GI Bill Hotline is 888-GIBill-1 and the White House VA Hotline is 855-948-2311. If you or someone you know has received an incorrect disbursement, is missing a stipend or reimbursement, please contact these hotlines for assistance.
Errors in Housing Payments for Some GI Bill Students
Contributed by Debbie Gregory
Some 340,000 students using the education benefit of the GI Bill were shorted in their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in the month of August.
The new version of the GI Bill states that the amount students receive for their housing allowance each month should be based on where they take the most classes. The old version of the bill calculated that amount based on the location of the school’s main campus.
Either way, the calculations are equivalent to what an E-5 active-duty personnel with dependents would receive, and due to a technology issue, the VA was delayed in implementing the change.
A VA spokesperson said that the department is still working on the remaining technology updates and was in the process of preparing to notify students about the impact to their payments.
So when the fall semester started, student veterans received their BAH based on the previous system and the previous calendar year.
“Many of the benefits that (the Forever GI Bill) ensures have already been implemented; however it’s troubling to me that VA still has not yet finalized the IT systems needed to fully implement the law, despite having a year to do so,” said Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, whose Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has held two hearings on the implementation of the bill.
Fifteen veterans groups penned a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie charging the VA of not being upfront about the problems, calling it “an organizational and customer service failure at the highest level.”
“It took several weeks into the current semester before any communication was sent to students, and schools have received little information beyond, ‘wait and see,’” their letter reads. “Transparency on what to expect and when to expect it, from all levels of leadership at VA, is critical to helping students and schools make informed decisions.”
Top 13 Colleges for Veterans
Contributed by Debbie Gregory
Members of the military transitioning back to civilian life face a bewildering array of colleges at which to use their hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits.
What makes a college veteran-friendly? First of all, they must recognize and value of their veteran students. Veterans bring with them a unique perspective and set of experiences, as well as the determination to succeed.
They should know that military service must never be treated as an extracurricular activity. Many military jobs are highly intellectually rigorous and require extensive technical training in an intense academic environment, which is why more and more, schools grant transfer college credit for many military courses and occupations.
But most important, colleges must be responsive to the unique needs of their student-veteran population. They should be willing to go the extra mile to ensure tuition is fully covered by the G.I. Bill, and commit to meeting any shortfalls through institutional aid in a predictable manner that adult, financially independent students with families and budgets can rely on when deciding whether to apply.
According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the top 13 schools in the 2019 Best Colleges rankings that participate in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees:
Working toward a degree while serving on active duty is much different than attending classes on a traditional campus, or even taking online classes from home. Before you take on the challenge of school and active duty, there are some key points to know that will increase your chances of success.
As you consider your educational options, you might develop a plan that involves taking a certain number of classes each term to finish your degree by a defined date. While planning is imperative, it’s also important to consider the need for a flexible enrollment schedule. Therefore, when weighing your schooling options, consider the following:
Does the school offer flexible scheduling? Can you take all of your classes from a distance, or will you have to spend time on campus? If you are required to spend some time “on the ground,” are there classrooms or branches of the college near your post, or will you have to wait until you have completed your commitment?
How military friendly is the school? Will the college be understanding of the demands on your time and be willing to make accommodations when you need to focus on your military responsibilities? Look for a university that offers accommodations for those who are active duty or veterans, including assistance with military benefits, access to military-specific services including development counselors and academic support.
How will your military experience coordinate with your studies? If you’re taking classes while you are still in active duty, determining the proper amount of transfer credit may be challenging. It is important to evaluate your options and work with your chosen school to determine the best course of action to ensure that you get proper credit for your experience and develop a course plan that accounts for the knowledge gained in the field.
Many service members are concerned about their GI Bill benefits should they opt to take courses while on active duty. You do not lose benefits if you earn a degree while serving, and you can use your tuition assistance benefits to pay for courses while you’re in the field. Therefore, you can still use your GI Bill to pay for a graduate degree, to supplement your income while you are in training for a federal job, or to transfer to a spouse or dependent.
Taking courses while on active duty can help you earn military promotions faster. All branches of the military consider civilian education when determining promotions. In the Army, for instance, you can earn up to 100 promotion points by taking classes at 1 point per credit hour. These points can add up, allowing you to move up the ranks and earn more money throughout your military career.
Education is a major priority for the armed services, and you don’t have to wait until after discharge to begin working on your degree. With time management and a flexible approach, you can finish your higher education while you’re on active duty.