By Abimarie Rivera Martínez
Office of Communications
Río Piedras Campus – UPR
Photographs by Lierni Cincunegui/Robert Feliberty
As part of the one-hundredth anniversary celebration of the U.S. Army ROTC in Puerto Rico, last Thursday, November 7, an event took place at the program’s facilities, located on the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (RRP-UPR).
The gathering included the National Guard and the United States Army Reserve, as well as the Air Force and Army units, both from the ROTC. The “Bulldog” battalion of the Mayagüez Campus of the UPR was also in attendance, along with Lieutenant Colonel Ángel Ortiz Medina, who appeared proud of the program’s accomplishments at Puerto Rico’s leading educational institution during the past 100 years.
“The impact and acculturation received by the cadets help them develop into better people regardless of whether they end up choosing a military career or they end up working in the civil sector,” Ortiz Medina said.
Presently, the Mayagüez squadron has 297 cadets that include students from the San Germán, Aguadilla, and Arecibo campuses of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico (UIPR, in Spanish), the Ponce and Mayagüez campuses of the UPR, and students from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The “Taino-Warriors” company in Río Piedras incorporates students from the Metro and Bayamón units of the UIPR, the Gurabo campus of Ana G. Méndez University, from Bayamón Central University (UCB, in Spanish), and the Cayey and Río Piedras campuses of the UPR.
Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Rojas Banrey, professor at the Department of Military Science, noted that there are currently 168 cadets in Río Piedras, out of which 39 will be commissioned among the National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve, and the U.S. Army.
Rojas Banrey highlighted the opportunities the program offers students.
“Joining the ROTC is an immense opportunity. It isn’t mandatory but [the participants] can apply for scholarships, trips abroad, and they can serve something bigger than themselves,” he remarked.
As for the help that the ROTC provided Puerto Rico during hurricanes Irma and Maria, the professor said that they were the first ones to “leave our families to serve the country during the disasters and offer help to the communities.”
The celebratory event served to commemorate the work performed by all of the cadets who have passed by the Department of Military Science during its first century since it was founded.
Being a member of this team allows the students to develop their academic skills while they consider the possibility of dedicating their lives to military service. The benefits and success stories these students in training can share are many.
An example is Christopher Cintrón, who is completing his last year in Political Science at the School of Social Sciences on the Río Piedras Campus. The cadet stated that on the Taino-Warriors Battalion “we don’t only shape leaders, but we develop values and we support them in reaching their goals.” He also remarked that fifty per cent of the active soldiers in the U.S. Army are Hispanic; most are Puerto Rican ROTC graduates.
On her part, Karla Enid Jiménez Gracia, a Biology student at UCB, highlighted that the “experience has been wonderful. They send you to different countries and [U.S.] regions to learn about different cultures.”
The cadet has had the opportunity to visit states such as Florida, Georgia, and others. Once she completes her degree, she hopes to be sent to the military base in Germany along with her husband Gilbert Rivera Rodríguez, who studies Natural Sciences at UCB.
Despite the sacrifices involved with being a member of the ROTC, taking courses as part of their training as U.S. Army officers, and studying full-time toward completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree, the cadets assert that being part of this group awards them many opportunities.