By: Anna Hays – Staff Writer
As a supplement to their existing workloads, 12 graduating University of Dayton Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets were able to enjoy one last hurrah together on the traditional senior trip over students’ fall break, Oct. 8-12.
The senior ROTC cadets, accompanied by Lt. Col. Daniel Redden and Master Sgt. Eugene Siler, left early Oct. 9 to embark on the ROTC-sponsored trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to participate in their senior staff ride.
The senior staff ride occurs every year for ROTC programs across the country. This year, UD ROTC seniors traveled to Gettysburg National Military Park, one of the most significant battlefields of the American Civil War.
“While on the battlefield we briefed and explained different parts of the battle at the exact spots they took place,” senior criminal justice major Casey Kelly said.
Each individual cadet had researched their briefings as a part of their UD military science class in which they wrote a five page paper and created a presentation in preparation for the staff ride.
This senior staff ride is geared toward ROTC senior cadets for a reason.
“It gave us exposure to our nation’s history before [we] serve as officers in the next few months,” Kelly said.
“Just like any other part of history, if you study you’ll be able to understand it better and in the future you won’t repeat those mistakes,” senior criminal justice major Ralph Locke said.
Their senior trip was also supplemented by a few memorable days spent in Washington, D.C.
“Master Sgt. Siler actually served at Arlington [National Cemetery], so we were able to get an in-depth tour of the Old Guard—the soldiers that guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and all the ceremonial stuff in D.C.,” Kelly said.
The group also spent a significant amount of time at the Washington Mall, visiting the Washington Monument, World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War and Lincoln memorials.
Locke noted the Washington Mall to be one of his favorite parts of the trip.
“There was so much history in one area, it was really surreal to take in,” he said.
The ROTC seniors also had the privilege to encounter an honor flight cohort at Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that gives war veterans the opportunity to visit the memorial of their respective wars before they die.
This fluke meeting reigns as Kelly’s favorite part of the trip.
“We were able to line up on the side as they were exiting the memorial and we saluted them as they left,” he said.
Aside from what was required out of the ROTC cadets during the senior staff ride and trip to Washington, D.C., they were able to enjoy a few days of bonding together as group of graduating seniors.
“Honestly, we’ll never be this close with these same 12 guys ever again in our lives,” Locke said.
“It was a final chance to go on a trip with the classmates you’ve been with for four years and experience something that you’ll never experience again,” Kelly said.
This trip provided the ROTC senior cadets an opportunity to immerse themselves in American history and reflect upon the pivotal events has made this country the place it is today.
“In college everyone is trying to find who they are,” Locke said, in reference to how his time spent over fall break enhanced his UD experience. “Everyone in college should try to find that one experience that forms their future… this was that experience for me,” Locke said.
The senior ROTC cadets are stepping up to the responsibility of serving as officers in the United States Army immediately after graduation this spring. Their fall break spent in Gettysburg and Washington, D.C., though filled with plenty of enjoyable moments, was a reflective preparation for their postgraduate journey.