On Saturday, Oct. 26, the University of Maine hosted a daylong celebration of its Army ROTC program’s 150th anniversary. The celebration, which coincided with UMaine’s Homecoming celebration, included nearly all of the programs’ 105 undergraduate students, as well as alumni who are either retired or in active service and a variety of festivities for family members and faculty.

UMaine’s Army ROTC program, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, was created in 1869, just four years after the university itself was founded. Since then, the program has worked to teach students the skills necessary for success in both military and civilian life through the practice of leadership development and physical training.

The Army ROTC battalion at UMaine — known as the Black Bear Battalion — is the only one of its kind in the entire state. Because of the academic partnerships that it maintains with both the University of Maine at Augusta and Husson University in Bangor, interested students from each university are able to take their ROTC courses and complete their military training exercises at UMaine’s Orono campus.

“The Army ROTC Program has had a long a valued history of producing officers for the Active, Reserve and National Guard components, the latter of which derives a significant amount of their officers who serve distinguished careers right here in Maine,” Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Davis, professor of military science, told the Maine Campus. “The program has been in the forefront of training women officers, most recently commissioning the first female Combat Arms officer in 2018. Officers commissioned in the ‘Long Blue Line’ here at UMaine have served in every war since its inception in 1869 and include a university president, the president of a large bank here in Maine and many General Officers.”

Speaking a day before the anniversary celebration, Davis explained that he had invited many of the program’s alumni to attend, and described how the anniversary’s festivities would be intertwined with UMaine’s Homecoming Day.

“Cadets, cadre and alum will enjoy a pre-game barbecue behind the fieldhouse,” Davis said. “We will also induct a class of ’84 alum Major General George Franz into the Black Bear Battalion Hall of Fame. Finally, the whole battalion will attend the football game, marching from the fieldhouse to the field.”

To enroll in Army ROTC, a student must complete a “cadet application,” and then submit further forms regarding their level of medical fitness and their understanding of the activities from which a recruit is prohibited in engaging in.

“In class we discuss practical military skills, but also we discuss the profession, ethics, army values, and mentorship,” Major Nicolas Phillips, the executive and operations office for UMaine’s Army ROTC explained. “The combination of classroom discussion and practical application of those lessons do a pretty good job of developing junior military leaders. Once they graduate and commission they receive additional training on leadership within their specific job field.”

Master Sergeant Frank Gill noted that the program teaches students strong values. 

“The army has seven values; loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, and the big thing about all army training and all the different people coming into the army is that we all come from different backgrounds,” Gill noted. “It’s important to take those seven army values, and instill them into each and every one of the cadets that comes through this program.” 

Students who complete the ROTC program together with their Bachelor’s degree earn the Army rank of Second Lieutenant upon graduation, which allows them to begin military service as an officer in either the active U.S. Army, the National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserve. Any undergraduate student can enroll in the Army ROTC program during their first and second years without the requirement to enlist. But those who choose to complete an ROTC contract, and continue for their junior and senior years, are thereby obligated to fulfil at least three to four years of active service in the U.S. Army, or six to eight years of service in the Army Reserves or National Guard.

“Reading through the university’s special collections and our own collection our Cadets have done some amazing things both here and away after they’ve commissioned,” Phillips said. “Since Captain Sellers conducted his first military drill with the Coburg Cadets in 1869, Maine has produced quality Officers to defend our nation.”

More information about the UMaine Army ROTC program can be learned by contacting its enrollment officer at brendan.fahey@maine.edu, or by calling its office at 207.581.1121