At 5:30 AM on Wednesday morning, six Stanford students wake and prepare to drive an oft-traveled route to an oft-visited home away from home. For Army ROTC students at Stanford, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday demands an early morning maneuver. But on Wednesday, the cadets know that their day will not end for another 16 hours. It will be just like most of their Wednesdays at Stanford.
Six Stanford students are currently Army ROTC cadets: three seniors and three freshmen. Wednesday is typically the cadets’ busiest days, and they must plan their lives as students around it.
According to Oliver Ennis ’11, the busiest Wednesdays begin with physical training at 6:30 AM. For the Stanford students, that means waking up at 5:30 AM, gathering their belongings, and making the commute to Santa Clara University, a drive that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire hour depending on the traffic.
After physical training, they drive back to Stanford where they can eat, shower, and go to a class or two, if they have time. Ennis recounted his morning class, “I have a Wednesday class at 10:00 AM. Sometimes I’m able to make it, sometimes I’m not, just depending on when I get out of here.”
The cadets have to be back at Santa Clara University by 2:15 PM that afternoon. There they participate in some type of lab or drill until around 5:00 PM. According to Ann Thompson ’11, another senior cadet and the battalion commander, enrolling in a Wednesday afternoon class at Stanford has been impossible for her.
Wednesday labs entail various activities pertaining to instruction and physical training and usually last for three hours in the afternoon. On March 2, the cadets ran through first aid drills that would prepare them for injury situations in battle.
After four years in the program, senior cadets like Thompson have taken on many leadership roles. Often the drills on Wednesday afternoons are planned and run by senior cadets, who have gone through the same drills themselves over the past few years.
After lab, the senior cadets have a military science class that lasts until 9:00 PM, and they also have other responsibilities related to their leadership positions—all taking place at Santa Clara University. They may have some downtime in their schedule, but not enough to do much of anything. “At times I kind of feel like I’m a Santa Clara student too,” Thompson said, “I’ll eat here, hang out in the cafeteria, do homework here, [and] hang out in the dorms.”
After their senior military science class and possibly a debrief with the Colonel in charge of the ROTC program at Santa Clara, the seniors can finally begin the commute back to Stanford. They will likely arrive back on campus by 10:30 PM.
On campus, the cadets can begin homework and lives they have kept on hold throughout the day. While the rest of the week does not look like the typical busy Wednesday, it still has early morning workouts and meetings that take time.
Being Students Too
Although only six Stanford students have chosen to participate in Army ROTC, Thompson noted, “You really see a diverse group of students choosing to do ROTC, and the program doesn’t really mold people into a certain type.” She did mention, however, that one “definitely have to be driven….”
Much of this drive must come in the area of academics, where schoolwork demands as much attention as ROTC. Isabel Lopez ’14, a freshmen cadet, said about her workload, “Your typical Stanford student does homework into the late hours of the night and we [cadets] do that as well. It just means that we get less sleep because we wake up earlier but we go to bed around the same time.” For large assignments, Ennis stated, “[We] plan well in advance…. The expectation is that if it’s that big of an assignment, you should have had enough time.”
While ROTC demands great amounts of time and energy from the Stanford students who choose to participate, they all seem happy with their commitment.
Lopez noted that she does miss some of the events that occur in the freshmen dorm, but she pointed out that freshmen involved in “similarly demanding things” may also miss out on some of those events. “I’m really loving ROTC. I like the structure [and] I like the opportunity to meet a lot of great people,” Lopez stated.
Thompson, does physical training every morning, including Saturdays, because she and some other cadets are training for the Baatan Death March, a several mile memorial march in desert terrain at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“Through ROTC, I’ve really gained a lot of leadership experience and great friendships with guys I’ll be friends with for years to come…. I would say leadership development really is the major thing I’ll take away from ROTC,” Thompson stated. In response to her life as an ROTC cadet, Thompson noted, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”