Mizzou Engineering’s military ties: students, vets and research
Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri was established with contributions from Boone County citizens eager to have Missouri’s new college located in Columbia.
In 1862, the Morrill Act, better known as the Federal Land Grant College Act was passed. The University of Missouri was awarded land-grant status in 1870. One of the requirements of accepting the designation and associated funding was that colleges make military training part of their curriculum, establishing the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).
Under Lieutenant E.H. Crowder, military training became a reality on the MU campus during his tenure, from 1886 to 1889. Various additional programs existed until 1945 when regular ROTC curriculum for all branches of the military was re-established.
In an effort to educate more potential Navy officers, the 1946 Holloway Plan offered students at 52 colleges and universities, including MU, the same opportunities for a commission in the regular Navy through the NROTC program as those available to graduates of Annapolis. Signed into law by President Harry Truman, it broke the Naval Academy’s monopoly on Navy officer career opportunities, prompting critics to begrudgingly ask, “Did you get your commission the hard way or the Holloway?”
ROTC has since become the single largest commissioning source of Naval and Marine Corps officers.
Mizzou’s NROTC unit was initiated in July 1946, located in temporary quarters until 1952, when the unit moved to the former Naval armory building. Twenty years later, it moved to its current home in Crowder Hall.
In the early 1970s, all three branches of ROTC were reporting to the provost, but in 1980, units aligned themselves with MU Colleges to provide closer relationships to academic units. Both the Army and Air Force ROTC units became part of the College of Arts and Science, and the Navy unit joined the College of Engineering.
NROTC students, or midshipmen, must commit to four years of active duty once they are commissioned. But while in school, they can pursue nearly any academic discipline and those who participate in the scholarship program receive full tuition. Educational fees and uniforms are covered as well, and a book stipend and a subsistence allowance are provided.
In addition to earning the same credits for their degree programs as other MU students, Naval Science classes and labs are required, as are physical training and month-long summer training sessions. Extracurricular activities offered through the program are the Rifle/Pistol Team, Color Guard and Drill Team.
“Right from the beginning of the program we teach students leadership and ethics,” said Commanding Officer Captain Robert Wilson Jr. “And teamwork is essential, too. When they graduate as Ensigns in the Navy or as Second Lieutenants in the Marines, they’ll use these skills immediately and on a daily basis.”
An Ensign in the Navy, for example may become an aviator or Naval Flight Officer. After about two years of intense training, he or she might fly off of a 90,000 ton aircraft carrier with a keel to mast height of a 24-story building, a crew of 5,000 and a half-acre flight deck. A Surface Warfare Officer may be charged with piloting the massive ship or with the operation of the nuclear reactors that power the vessel.
This past academic year the NROTC had 90 midshipmen enrolled at MU, evenly split between the Marine Corps and the Navy, which requires a technical degree the Marine Corps does not. One of this spring’s 13 graduates was a mechanical engineering student.
“As NROTC students at MU, the young men and women in the program will experience a diverse population and receive a well-rounded education that prepares them to be successful in many settings,” Wilson said. “Not everyone decides to stay in the Navy or the Marines. There are so many career options.”