NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - "Okay, move out," commands a ROTC instructor to his students. SFA freshman ROTC cadets lurk from behind trees, on guard with every move, carrying pretend combat guns. Suddenly they spring into action yelling, "Boom, boom, boom," almost as if they were 8 years old again. They're learning the basics of combat maneuvers just yards from the SFA Military Science building.
They're among the 41 incoming freshman enrolled in ROTC, a big jump from the 19 seen last year. Overall, enrollment in the Lumberjack Battalion is up 30%.
"Over the summer, Stephen F. Austin, had offered 5 freshman orientations and as a result, we participated in each one of them," Captain Kwang Fricke explained. He attributes that in part to the enrollment increase.
There were also stepped up recruiting efforts in Houston, Shreveport and Dallas, hometown of Cadet Nathan Mullins, an aspiring attorney. "I knew the percentage rate for commissioning officers was high and so I felt like this was the right program for me," Mullins said. He had actually had his mind made up to join ROTC before talking to the recruiter. He was just trying to decide on the right school and the right program.
Then there are those attracted to the scholarships. "It helps my family out quite a bit as we couldn't afford as much as others," Cadet Kyle King of north Houston shared.
"Grenades. Grenades," is heard from the trees. These cadets are pretending to be in a war time conflict, but realize they could someday be facing the real thing. One cadet lies stretched out in a muddy ditch pretending to be dead.
The reality of war is a double edge sword for recruiters. "It helps and it hurts, Lt. Ryan Tompkins, a Gold Bar recruiter and SFA and Nacogdoches High School graduate said. "You got the people who are willing and ready to serve this country. And then you have those who are a little timid, might be a little scared and that's okay, you know. You might not come in ready to go, but whenever your nation and your country calls on you, they'll be ready." Tompkins is ready. He's awaiting his order to learn how to fly army helicopters.