Recruits steam into Naval ROTC life at orientation

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:36 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Freshman Amanda Heismann could hear the earth crunch beneath her shiny black boots. At 5:30 a.m., little noise punctuated the balmy air in Hinkson Park — except for the screaming.

The cry of 30 voices sliced the dark.

“Motivation! Dedication! Hoorah! Yes, sir!”

Welcome to new student orientation for the Naval ROTC.

Each year, Mizzou’s NROTC program hosts a concentrated orientation for its newest recruits. Novice midshipmen, students in the Navy/Marine program, spend five days mastering the basics of military life. They learn how to wear their uniforms, speak military lingo and keep pace with officers during 31/2-mile hikes at 5 a.m.

“There’s just so much to learn,” said Heismann, an international studies major from Warrensburg.

Since Sunday, 30 midshipmen have been studying the yells, the drills and the skills required of NROTC students. By Thursday, they are expected to know military customs, Navy and Marine history, and how to address classmates and salute officers.

Their shoes shine, and they must shout “cock and drive” when they pivot left or right during a drill. They will call their camouflage hats “covers,” not “caps.”

The orientation helps recent high school grads make a smoother transition from civilian to military culture, according to Capt. Gregory Field, Marine officer instructor for the university’s NROTC.

The captain said students are joining the program for three reasons: to maintain family tradition; to fulfill an obligation to their country; and to satisfy interest raised by seeing the military portrayed in the media. He listed job security after graduation as another draw for recruits.

“My personal opinion is that the military has had a lot of opportunity to be in the public spotlight in the past couple of years,” said Field, 29. “Patriotism has swept through many towns.”

Freshman Samuel Timmer has wanted to be in the military since he was 7 years old. An aspiring pilot, the 18-year-old mechanical engineering student wants to follow his father into the Marine Corps and hopes to fly airplanes.

“I know that he’s really glad that I chose the Corps,” Timmer said. “I knew I could go into the civilian sector and fly for Delta or American Airlines, but I didn’t want to drive a bus.”

Field is uncertain whether the war in Iraq affected NROTC recruitment rates this year. NROTC has 31 new students, just one more than last year. One student did not attend this year’s orientation, which is not mandatory.

This year’s class is divided into three squads, who have been competing in an array of exercises: climbing rope bridges, swimming races and navigating through Hinkson Park using a compass.

At 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the midshipmen sat silently in the dewy park, obediently consuming Meals Ready to Eat. Each student opened a brown sack with slim cardboard boxes of eclectic breakfast cuisine: pasta with vegetables, chicken tetrazini or meatloaf.

“This isn’t a military base, but we’re grooming them to be officers,” said Midshipman 1st Class Dan Niethe, who served on the orientation staff. “I like to see young people succeed at it.”

All but one of this year’s NROTC class is a freshman, and four are female. There is no GPA requirement to join NROTC, but midshipmen must maintain a 2.5 GPA to stay in the program.

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