The 63 cadets in The University of Texas-Pan American's Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) were grandly saluted at a March 8 ceremony where the Bronc Battalion received the 2006 General Douglas MacArthur Award recognizing it as one of the best ROTC programs in the nation.
This is the first time in its 27-year history that UTPA's ROTC program has been recognized with the award presented each year to the best small, medium and large programs nationwide by The U.S. Army Cadet Command, the parent organization of the Army ROTC, in conjunction with the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation.
"This recognition is the highest honor that can be given to any ROTC program and is a landmark achievement for our students, faculty and this community," said Lieutenant Colonel André Dean, professor of military science and commanding officer of the UTPA battalion.
To be selected for the honor, the cadets excelled academically with a 3.11 grade point average by its juniors and seniors; ranked among the highest against 4,500 other cadets, above even UT Austin and Texas A&M, in demonstrated and evaluated leadership during the year and at the national Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) at Fort Lewis, Washington; and met or exceeded the demanding physical fitness requirements of the Army Physical Fitness Test.
Battalions selected for the awards were also the most successful of the 273 ROTC units across the country in commissioning new Army officers into active, reserve or National Guard employment. This year the program met their mission of eight new officers and since 1980 has commissioned 189 officers.
The award was presented by Colonel James House, 12th Brigade Commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. House said that two-thirds of the almost 3,000 men and women commissioned last year as second lieutenants onto active duty in the Army came from ROTC programs and praised the support of University administrators and the quality of leaders coming from UTPA.
"Today we are recognizing this great institute as having one of the best of the best ROTC programs in the U.S. and confirming that the Army believes that this University and this program is recruiting, developing and graduating the quality of students required to serve as second lieutenants in our Army at war. Eventually these same young men and women will serve in positions of importance in commerce, industry, politics, and hopefully, as professors and teachers in our classrooms," he said.
Cárdenas said the University had an obligation to the region, state and nation to prepare its students to be leaders in all areas of American life.
"We need to communicate in every way that we can that we have the leaders here. I believe out of the communities in deep South Texas come the values, the interpersonal skills and the belief in our country that shapes the kind of leaders that our nation will need. Our young people are stepping up to the plate to demonstrate the commitment that leadership takes," she said.
Recognized as one of the "Top 12 Cadets" in the nation last summer at the Army's leadership course in Fort Lewis, Cadet Battalion Commander Cameron Anderson said he thought there were several reasons why his battalion excelled this year. He credited the close camaraderie that developed among the cadets and the positive attitude and determination they shared.
"While you get assessed as an individual, the planning and preparation is done as a team here on campus - looking out for one another, helping each other with our weaknesses and even improving on our strengths," Anderson said of his unit's performance at Fort Lewis. "I hope in years to come we can continue to excel and raise the bar to whatever level we can take it to."
Anderson, who is originally from Harlingen, will graduate in May 2007 and report in June as a commissioned officer to the field artillery school at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. From there, he said, his first duty station will be in Germany.
Dean, who came to UTPA less than a year ago, said ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and has produced leaders such as Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"Students who come through our program can lead an Army, or lead an industry or lead a nation," said Dean, who hopes the recognition as a top program will attract local seniors and transfer students to come to UTPA. "Success breeds success and our cadets have tasted this national recognition and are in the process of vigorously passing on their leadership skills to the next generation."
For more information on the UTPA ROTC program, contact Dean at 956/381-3600 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.