SROTC Battalions Launch Talented Reserve Officiers

02/22/2020  | 

Every year, as Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets graduate and commission as second lieutenants all across the country, they take up their first billets in America’s Active Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. These first years shape not only their decision to serve a full 20 year career, but the future quality of the Army.

For active duty 2nd Lieutenants, a robust number of current websites, installation resources, and full-time Army personnel stand ready to guide them through the onboarding process. For National Guard Lieutenants, installation resources are usually within a day’s drive.

For 2nd lieutenants commissioning into the US Army Reserve, especially those joining an out of state unit, the process of finding a unit and onboarding can seem daunting. How does a graduating Cadet apply for a Reserve position before they even have their civilian job lined up? How does the Reserve accessions process differ from the Active Duty process? Even learning about a Reserve career can be difficult, since most personnel staffing ROTC Programs are from the Active Duty and National Guard Components.

There is no centralized way to make this transition from cadet to second lieutenant smooth, since each aspiring officer has a unique story, and each Reserve career requires a unique approach to plan. The solutions vary on a case-by-case basis, and the Cadet must manage and drive the process.

To assist with these challenges, Soldiers of 4-413th and 4-414th SROTC Regiments provide U.S. Army Reserve Officers and senior NCOs to Senior ROTC programs across the nation. These “Adjunct Faculty,” also known as “Assistant Professors of Military Science” (APMS), not only diversify the ROTC staff experience and breadth, they also find unique ways to assist Cadets in finding their future in the Army Reserve.

2nd Lieutenant Grace Liu was one Cadet who relied heavily on the Adjunct Faculty for success.

Liu earned her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico, and following graduation, she planned on pursuing a PhD in International Relations. That plan for graduate school would take her out of the state, and Cadet Liu’s default plan would put her in the New Mexico National Guard.

“With the National Guard, I was expecting to be thrown into any unit that would take me,” she said.

In addition to earning an MBA and pursuing graduate studies, is fluent in Korean and Mandarin Chinese. She desired to apply these talents as a Military Intelligence Officer and later as a Civil Affairs officer, but that path seemed unavailable to her as a new officer in the New Mexico National Guard.

Knowing her graduate studies would take her out of state, she decided to investigate whether the Army Reserve might be a better fit for her service career.

“My priority was receiving the branch I wanted, but with that expectation, I was willing to compromise my chances of finding a unit of my choice,” 2nd Lieutenant Liu said.

Thanks to help from Adjunct Faculty, 2nd Lieutenant Grace Liu is now on a career path to success.

Then Cadet Liu contacted Captain Michael Dill, the Reserve officer attached to her ROTC program from 4-414th SROTC Battalion. After a short interview assessing her needs, skills, and goals, Captain Dill recommended she pursue a career in the Army Reserve, where most Civil Affairs units reside.

The question remained as to how Cadet Liu should approach her aspiration to the Military Intelligence and Civil Affairs branches. To help her investigate this, Captain Dill called Major Eric Medina, a Civil Affairs officer and former member of the SROTC Battalion that covers the Eastern U.S. (now the 4-413th SROTC Battalion). He could give her first-hand accounts of the Army Reserve and the Civil Affairs branch.

“Thanks for reaching out to me,” Medina responded, “I’d be more than happy to reach out to her.”

Medina had earned his Master’s Degree in International Security Policy from Columbia University, so he could provide advice to Liu both on her Reserve and civilian careers. Integrating goals and balancing commitments as a citizen and a Soldier is a central theme to Reserve careers.

By the evening of the same day she first spoke with Dill, Liu was discussing her pursuits with Medina, who gave her concrete advice for achieving her goals.

“Major Medina was incredibly open to me discussing my future plans with them and figuring out how the Army could fit into my civilian goals,” Liu said. With a better grasp of what her future could look like, Liu was ready to pursue an Army Reserve position with confidence.

The next morning, Dill met with Liu to help her find an Army Reserve unit. Thanks to some prior networking, Dill was able to provide the names and phone numbers of leadership for the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion. The unit was located in San Diego, CA, within a drive of where Liu planned to pursue graduate studies.

Within an hour of beginning her search for a Reserve unit, Liu was on the phone with her future commander, who interviewed her and invited her to transfer into his unit after commissioning.

“I believe that having an officer support my efforts in finding a unit was an irreplaceable asset.” Liu said, “As a Cadet, I was often met with conflicting information or people who would not respond immediately. With the involvement of cadre, I was able to finally get results.”

Less than 24 hours prior, Liu was on an uncertain career path without an opportunity to apply her language skills and academic training. Now she was excited about her future in the Army Reserve.

The following week, Liu had a signed Letter of Acceptance for a Military Intelligence slot within the Civil Affairs unit, located within a drive of where she wanted to pursue graduate studies.

Liu was happy with the results: “Because of their help, I found a Civil Affairs unit and secured a position as a military intelligence officer, both of my first choice options.”

2nd Lieutenant Nicholas Sgambellone, another Cadet aspiring to the military intelligence (MI) branch, commissioned in May 2019, and also benefited from the mentorship of a Reserve officer. After earning his undergraduate degree in the Southwest U.S., Sgambellone wanted to move to the D.C. metro area and pursue civilian work in the intelligence community.

“When I was a Cadet, I had many questions about the accessions process, finding vacancies, and just general information about the process,” Sgambellone said.

In his MSIV year, Sgambellone was told he couldn’t start applying for a Top Secret clearance until he attended the MI Basic Officer’s Leaders Course (BOLC). He was told he couldn’t request a BOLC class date until he had orders from his unit. He was also told he couldn’t attend MI BOLC until he had his Top Secret clearance.

This bad information created a multi-variable chicken-and-the-egg dilemma that temporarily prevented him from moving forward. Sgambellone was persistent enough to ask the right questions, and he was lucky enough to have an APMS from 4-414th SROTC Battalion at his university.

“Without access to a Reserve Officer’s mentorship and expertise before I commissioned, the process would have been significantly more difficult,” Sgambellone said.

Through the SROTC Battalion network, then Cadet Sgambellone was connected with 2nd Lieutenant Liu, who by that time had completed MI BOLC, and could speak authoritatively on the post-commissioning process. She gave Sgambellone accurate and incisive counsel that enabled him to move forward.

Today 2nd Lieutenant Sgambellone enjoys his work as an MI officer working in the D.C. metro area. He explored options until he knew what he wanted, overcame obstacles that could have halted his progress, and found great work in a unit he never knew existed. None of this would have gone so well without a Reserve APMS to guide him through the process.

“Having a Reserve Officer guide me through the process of commissioning into the Army Reserve and finding a unit changed the course of my Army career in invaluable ways,” said Sgambellone. “Without that, I may have never found a slot with a Reserve unit that I loved being a part of like I have now. I would highly recommend to any cadet thinking about joining the Army Reserve upon commissioning to seek guidance from Reserve Officers about the process.”

1st Brigade (“Warrior Brigade”) of the 104th Training Division, now offers training to the SROTC battalions on how to provide this kind of assistance to Reserve cadets. The ultimate goal is that even universities without a Reserve cadre member will be able to reach out and receive tailored help in launching their graduating cadets into a successful Reserve career.

For more information about this initiative, you can contact [email protected] or visit
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