Soldier in waiting

Nick Sabatino

Photo By Erik Stabile

Nick Sabatino is a 21-year-old student serving his third year as a cadet in the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps). Sabatino studies history at UNR. His schooling is paid for by ROTC and in return Sabatino will spend four years serving in the Army as an officer.

What is ROTC?

It’s [an officer] commissioning organization. It’s an opportunity for people who want to join the army as an officer and get their college education at the same time and often get your college paid for. It’s the largest commissioning program in the country. This year we had 4,000 seniors nationwide.

What do you do here?

I’m a cadet here in between my third and fourth year. The cadet program is a progressive program. The first year is an introduction into ROTC and army values and then you progress into your second year at which [time] you learn about tactics. Then your third year is really your big year. Between your third and fourth year you go to summer camp in Fort Lewis, Washington, and spend 33 days doing training in the field. The purpose of the camp is to assess your leadership abilities. Then your fourth year, you take a staff position and work on the transition from cadet to second lieutenant.

Has ROTC changed since the beginning of the Iraq war?

I was still in high school when the Iraq war started, but this has never been a really big program, but I’ve noticed since I have been here the program has grown tremendously. I don’t know if that’s because of our involvement in world affairs or if it’s just because of different generations that want to lead more. It’s tough for me to say, but my assumption is yes, it probably has evolved quite a bit just like the rest of the army has over the last five years. So I would say that ROTC has evolved to meet the requirement so when cadets do become lieutenants, they hit the ground with their feet running.

How has the Army changed in the last five years?

It’s evolved for a different kind of war. It has become much more modular, mobile and capable of meeting its requirements.

Do people within ROTC have different opinions about the war?

Yes, I think there’s some. Everybody has their own personal opinions. It’s not like everyone who joins the Army is all about the war in Iraq or vice versa. Most of us are tight friends within classes outside of ROTC, but we don’t really talk about the war. Whether they agree or disagree, I can’t assume, but everyone here joined in a time of war knowing they could fight in that war.

Does the war in Iraq ever strike close to home at ROTC?

We have a couple lieutenants that have gone to Iraq. We have a couple who graduate in 2006. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had four or five serving or have served in Iraq.

What have you gotten out of ROTC?

I think in my three years here, as far as leadership, I’ve grown leaps and bounds since graduating high school. I think that’s the same for everybody here, and that’s the purpose of ROTC. It’s not necessary to make everybody a tactician, but it’s to make everybody a good leader. So that whatever branch you get into the Army or whatever field you end up serving in, you’re a good leader, and you can lead soldiers. Right now in the job market there’s a thirst for Army officers, and that’s a testament to our training.