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A PROUD HISTORY – A BRIGHT FUTURE
The history of today’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at West Virginia University is as old as West Virginia University itself. The Morril Act of 1862 signed by President Abraham Lincoln required all land grant universities to “teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture, the mechanical arts and military tactics.” On February 8th, 1867 the newly formed West Virginia legislature passed an act permanently establishing the Agriculture College of West Virginia, renamed West Virginia University a year later, and the WVU Corps of Cadets was officially born.
Colonel James Riley Weaver, a veteran of the U.S. Civil War, served as the first Commandant of Cadets which originally consisted of the entire student body. The general course of instruction focused primarily on infantry, artillery, and cavalry tactics. During the late 1870’s, non-Cadets were no longer mandated to take military studies as part of their degree plan. However, approximately thirty years later in 1912, with the threat of world war on the horizon, the university adopted a policy in which all male students, with some exceptions, “enroll themselves in the Department of Military Science.”
The onset of World War I required training for Cadets to be hastened and included “special kinds of work” such as carpentry, welding, photography and other skills deemed essential to supporting the war effort. Armed with the necessary skills and leadership, the first detachment of officers to complete the new course study departed for France in August of 1918.
Army Reserve Officer Training Corps was formalized nationwide in 1916 as a provision of the National Defense Act, and in 1919, the WVU Corps of Cadets was re-designated as Army ROTC.
Following the United States’ entry to WWII with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, West Virginia University Army ROTC saw a large increase in enrollment, ultimately peaking in 1943 with 1,150 Cadets.
In the early 1970’s, coinciding with the end of the Vietnam War and the draft, ROTC became completely voluntary. In 1977 the first female Cadets were allowed unrestricted participation in all ROTC activities at WVU, and the first female scholarship Cadet was commissioned in 1979.
In 2008, WVU Army ROTC distinguished itself as the best overall battalion in the eastern-region by being recognized with the prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Award by the U.S. Army Cadet Command.
In a history of nearly 150 years of service to our nation, officers from West Virginia University and its partnership schools have served proudly in all of our nation’s conflicts to include the Spanish- American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm, and most recently by fighting global terrorism in Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Today, the WVU Army ROTC Mountaineer Battalion continues to train Cadets to assume duties as leaders of the most agile, adaptable, and capable ground force in the world. Graduates of this program can be found leading our nation’s men and women as commissioned officers on the forefront of freedom around the globe. As their forefathers did in generations past, they continue to Climb to Glory, ensuring that MOUNTAINEERS will always be free!