The freshman Noonsong, who entered SMWU this year, saw a martial arts performance by the ROTC at the 2022 entrance ceremony "Yes Sookmyung." Cadets for the ROTC wore uniforms and performed a wonderful group dance to the magnificent music. She was very impressed by the performance and began to think about becoming an ROTC cadet. What exactly is it, and what should she know to become one?
Following the trace of the Sookmyung ROTC
The ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) is a system in which students attending four-year universities are selected to study a military education and are commissioned as officers upon graduation. Looking at the historical background of the ROTC, in the early 1960s, the government desperately needed to increase its military power to secure an independent defense that could cope with the very unstable national security situation. Then they began to implement a system in which students attending university were selected to undergo a military education, and upon graduation, they would be commissioned as officers to act as elementary commanders of the military. That is the ROTC system. Through the ROTC, the army was able to recruit many elite resources in a short period and solve the most serious problem in the military's command system at that time — the lack of qualifications of the commanders. As a result, not only was it possible to dramatically increase the standing capacity, but also significantly reduce the burden of the training education budget required for large-scale recruitment of military officers. The ROTC was born with these multi-faceted policy goals for the national defense of the country. SMWU was approved for the establishment of the ROTC in September 2010, which was the first of the women's universities in Korea. In December of the same year, SMWU selected 30 candidates as the 51st ROTC cadets and held a ceremony to establish the 217th ROTC, which was the Army ROTC. In 2012, two years after its foundation, it achieved excellent results with the No. 1 overall score in the ROTC's winter and summer enlistment training. Subsequently, in 2021, SMWU was once again selected as the first women's university to establish an Air Force ROTC, which allows SMWU to train elite officers to lead the aerospace era of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The 217th ROTC also produced many talented elites, such as General Kang Sunyoung, the first female general in the Republic of Korea, Colonel Ko Minsook, the first prosecutor general in the Navy, and Captain Park Kieun, who won the presidential award as the chief of ROTC graduation.
The ROTC begins accepting applications every March, with SMWU's Army ROTC accepting applications until May 6, and the Air Force ROTC until April 15. These recruitment schedule dates have both been postponed from April 8, and the Army ROTC said it decided to reduce the burden on students due to the school exam schedule. The overall selection is made in the first and second rounds, but the schedules differ between the Army and Air Force. The Army ROTC will announce the first successful cadets on June 10 based on a written test conducted on May 14, followed by the second screening in September, and will announce the final successful cadets on October 21. The Air Force ROTC will conduct a written examination on June 25 and conduct a second round of evaluations from July to September before announcing the final successful cadets on October 28. Students can apply for the Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC at the same time, but they must choose one before finally joining. The first selection round is evaluated by written tests, CSAT or high school grades, and university grades together. In addition, the second selection round rates the overall performance after adding interviews, Korean history certification grades, and physical strength scores to the first selection evaluation score. The Army ROTC describes eligible candidates as "a person with sound thoughts, good conduct, and strong physical strength." The age must be 17 to 20 years old based on the date of commission. There are other additional qualifications besides, and details of the evaluations can be found in the 2022 recruitment guidelines on the website of Sookmyung ROTC or SMWU.
Life and activities in the ROTC
The 217th ROTC has the vision to become the world's top female ROTC based on its motto, "From First to Best." SMT interviewed Kim Minyoung, the 62nd cadet of the Army ROTC, to hear more about what kind of life and activities the cadets experience under this vision. First, SMWU ROTC has cadets and self-governing members who lead and represent them. The positioning structure consists of a battalion commander, personnel manager, information manager, operations manager, military manager, company commander, and honorary members. The battalion commander is a cadet representing the entire 62nd, and the section manager cadets perform specialized tasks within the ROTC, such as preparing for a 'Military Science' class and managing supplies. Company commanders guide dissemination and manage morning physical fitness on behalf of each company. Finally, cadets as honorary members manage the reward and punishment points of cadets and create an atmosphere of establishing military discipline within the ROTC. Kim also mentioned that the daily routine of cadets varies greatly from day to day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they run 3km at Hyochang Stadium from 7 A.M. and do strength exercises. After this, each cadet spends their day freely. Some cadets exercise as a hobby during the day or work in leadership groups or at part-time jobs. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they take a 'Military Science' class wearing basic uniforms or combat uniforms from 8:30 A.M. At other times, they follow the same schedule as ordinary students. The period during which the lives of cadets differ from ordinary students is during the vacation period. During that time, there is a total of 12 weeks of enlistment training, when cadets enter the Summer Student Military School and receive three types of training during their service period. The training consists of basic military training for the second-grade winter season, combat commander training, which is the third-grade summer training, and field commander training for the fourth-grade summer training. Therefore, cadets receive about a month of military training during vacation and strive to complete graduation credits during the semester. To add, there is no significant difference between the Army ROTC and the Air Force ROTC during the candidate period, such as basic military training, in-school education, and enlistment training. Overall, the ROTC operates a relatively lighter curriculum during the semester than in vacation to minimize disruption to students' school life and study.
Other than building physical strength and military knowledge as above, cadets also engage in diplomatic and defense activities. SMWU invited Christopher Del Corso, acting U.S. ambassador to Korea, to give a talk at Snowflake Square Hall on March 17 under the theme of "The 140th Anniversary of Korea-U.S. Relations and the Future." About 60 cadets from Air Force ROTC and students attended the event, and it was a venue to share their thoughts on diplomatic relations between Korea and the United States in international affairs and security systems. ROTC cadets also have the opportunity to visit military and cultural sites within the country and abroad as one of the benefits they enjoy. This was not carried out due to COVID-19, but Myeong Seungman, head of the SMWU 217th ROTC, said, "We are earnestly pushing to conduct a military cultural exploration this year." According to him, the 217th ROTC will go on a tour of overseas battlefields from late August to early September and plans to visit Cheongpa Muje (Cheongpa Martial Arts Festival) and another battlefield around November. Cheongpa Muje is a combination of the name of Cheongpa-dong, and the Chinese character 'Mu', which symbolizes martial arts. It is a traditional annual event held to report the achievements of the 217th ROTC over the year and boost the morale of cadets. Myeong also said he wanted to visit the facilities and training sites of the U.S. Combined Forces Operation, adding, "I'm trying to let the cadets experience as much as possible about the military." As such, face-to-face activities, which had been briefly reduced in the ROTC for a while, are expected to become active again.
What's good to know before applying?
This year, the Air Force and the Army ROTC continued various promotional activities. First, they operated offline booths at the Haeoreum Festival on March 10 and 11. And they also conducted mentoring programs. The mentors and mentees were matched based on similar departments, and mentors provided materials that could be helpful in the application to each mentee. The Air Force ROTC held recruitment briefing sessions as well as mentoring. SMT also participated in the session held at Myungshin Hall on March 22. Lt. Col. Chung Hyunsook, a senior at SMWU and working in the command-and-control center at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was invited there to set up a "Time with a senior" program. Because the recruitment period had been extended, they could hold another online session on April 12. Here, the head of the Air Force ROTC explained the future vision of the Air Force officers. One of the things students consider when applying for the ROTC is the benefits, and the 217th ROTC cadets are seen to receive various benefits. In response, Myeong cited SMWU's tremendous support as an advantage, setting it apart from other universities. "Cadets can receive 50% of the tuition, 100% of the dormitory cost, and about 7 to 9 of them can receive 100% tuition support. Also, SMWU seems to be paying a lot of attention to the ROTC because they enjoy the privilege of using separate classrooms, fitness rooms, and Hyochang Stadium," he stressed. They can also use army recreation facilities and receive discounts for various cultural performances and companies using their cadet ID cards. On top of that, various scholarships and monthly auxiliary textbook expenses for two years are provided. Talking about the benefits, he said, "From the university's perspective, the ROTC is a consumer organization that spends its budget with a lot of support from it. And I hope that the cadets know about this support. Therefore, we are also trying to help the ROTC give back to SMWU." He hopes the cadets live up to the expectation.
Lastly, SMT will provide information and advice that will help students who want to apply for the ROTC. First, the general career path of the cadets depends largely on their short-term or long-term wishes. In the short term, they can prepare for employment in the same way as ordinary students. And in the case of long-term candidates, they can prepare language grades and certificates according to their preference, such as applying for military scholarships in order to become experts in the field after commission. To become a cadet with the ROTC with these careers and goals, Myeong pointed out the opinion about one's country, responsibility, and physical strength as the most necessary qualities. He spoke to the applicants, "You should be aware of what you can do for your country, what the country does for you, and have the responsibility and stamina to express and practice what you think with your body." In addition, cadet Kim predicted that many students were worried that they were not fully prepared for the physical strength part. She said, "I'm sure they're worried about their physical strength. But I want to tell them "Don't worry," as they'll naturally improve after they're accepted." There were also comments about the significant role and meaning of the ROTC to the cadets. At the recruitment briefing session for the Air Force ROTC introduced above, Lt. Col. Chung said, "It can be affirmed that it is the Air Force that provides a good foundation for each person to develop their inner growth and caliber. If you have big dreams and aspirations and want to actively upgrade yourself, the Air Force is perfect for you." He stressed that the Air Force can greatly contribute to the growth and self-development of students.
Being the best
As Korea's first women's university ROTC, the 217th ROTC in SMWU is the cradle of students intending to be officers. There is an opportunity to apply for it by early May. Kim, a cadet of the Army ROTC, said, "As the ROTC activities are a valuable opportunity to be reborn as a female leader who contributes to national security, we ask for a lot of applications from interested students." We are together in today's history, where the 217th ROTC begins with the "first" and goes to the "best."