Members of 4-414th Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps (SROTC) cadre serve as mentors to Cadets in many ways.
Toward the start of the year, many Soldiers with the 4-414th helped Cadets lock in positions at units to ensure they have a home once they commission as second lieutenants in the United States Army Reserve (USAR). These positions are locked in through vacancy hold requests (VHRs).
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets who are selected to join the active-duty component after they earn their commission as a second lieutenant might have it easy. Their branch, Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) course date, and duty station are all selected for them. These are chosen for the cadet based on their submitted preferences and their performance on the order of merit list. However, their branch is not always guaranteed to align with their preferences. This is a key difference between active duty and the Army Reserve.
ROTC Cadets who chose or were selected to join the USAR must be proactive to secure their branch, BOLC date, and unit. Before the Cadets graduate and earn their commission, they must find a vacancy (in their desired branch) at a unit and submit a VHR through USAR G1. This process gives these Cadets a little more control over what branch they will commission into, as well as their BOLC course dates.
In the past few months, hundreds of Cadets nationwide were assisted by 4-414 SROTC cadre. 4-414 SROTC Soldiers served as mentors and guides to the Cadets to help them get vacancy holds and plan the start of their careers in several ways.
BOLC Course Dates
Typically, college seniors find employment before they graduate. Cadets must manage their employment search based on when they leave for BOLC, which can last 4-18 months. They must decide if they will attempt to delay BOLC for a few months or try to complete it soon after graduating. Do they look for a job now, or wait until after BOLC? Will the job even be there if they wait until after BOLC?
This is where Cadets destined for the USAR have more control than their active-duty peers. The sooner a cadet gets a vacancy hold, the sooner they can apply to BOLC and lock in their preferred dates. Cadets can do this almost seven months sooner than their peers bound for active duty.
One example of this is Cadet Ty Cook at the University of Central Missouri (UCMO). Cadet Cook ranked sixth in the nation on the Cadet Order of Merit list. This positioned him to very likely get anything at the top of his preference list on active duty, but his goal was to pursue his civilian job and the USAR instead. He secured a job with the United States Customs and Border Protection and must attend the Border Patrol Academy. He had to decide if he would attend BOLC first, or the academy. After a discussion with Maj. Brian Diercks, a cadre member at UCMO, Cook was able to weigh the pros and cons of his options and make an informed decision about his two careers.
Getting Vacancy Hold Where None Exist
Aviation units, like Bravo Company, 7-158 General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) may not have vacancies today but must forecast a vacancy down the road. Aviation training can take 15-18 months or more. Once you add time for BOLC, and SERE (Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), a second lieutenant may not actually join their unit for more than two years from the time of requesting a vacancy hold.
Enough Cadets/lieutenants must be in the pipeline to ensure a full roster in the future. When there is not a vacancy today, a letter of acceptance (LOA) can also suffice in these scenarios to generate a vacancy hold number for the cadet. Each position on a unit manning roster has a unique control number. If the Cadets work with the gaining unit, they can secure a slot in the unit with the control number for the slot they will be going into.
Cadet Issac Brooks and Cadet George Bechthold, both seniors at the University of Central Missouri, were able to secure their branch and vacancy hold number after Diercks worked with the 7-158 GSAB Commander to generate LOAs and vacancy hold numbers.
Even with COVID limiting the face-to-face interactions with Cadets and cadre, the 4-414 SROTC still plays vital roles in shaping and securing the future for many future lieutenants.