Prior to the Civil War, the small number of officers the Army needed was provided by United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and a few other colleges. With the expansion of the Army to unprecedented size for the Civil War, the need for trained officers quickly exceeded the number available. As a result, Congress passed the Land Grant Act of 1862 which specified that courses in military tactics should be offered at colleges established as a result of the Act.
Corvallis College (now Oregon State University) was founded in 1858 as an Academy supported by the Methodist Church. In 1868 it was named a Land Grant Institution, and by 1872 the first Cadet Corps was formed under the command of Captain Benjamin D. Boswell, an active duty officer on extended leave in Corvallis. In 1911, McAlexander Fieldhouse, one of the oldest buildings on campus, was dedicated to Major Ulysses G. McAlexander, then the Professor of Military Science and Tactics, who went on to become known as "The Rock of the Marne" as commander of the 38th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division during World War I.
The National Defense Act of 1916 expanded and standardized the training of officers, colleges and universities and established the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in essentially the same form as it is known today. This program replaced other military training at OSU in 1917 and continued virtually unchanged until 1962 when ROTC became voluntary.
Historically, all physically qualified male OSU students were required to take the first two years of ROTC instruction. The program took a significant step forward in 1973 when women were allowed to enroll.
Today, OSU Army ROTC continues the tradition of "The West Point of the West,” the nickname earned during World War II when the OSU Corps produced more officers than any other non-military academy in the nation. Our Army ROTC graduates continue their proud heritage of dedicated service to the nation, while our current cadets accept the challenges of the ROTC program as they prepare to be tomorrow’s leaders.
The Program Today
The focus of the ROTC program is leadership development. Students learn problem solving techniques, decision-making skills, planning and organizing skills, interpersonal communications skills, professional ethics and responsibilities, and other management and leadership skills. Leadership labs and field training exercises supplement classroom work with practical leadership training and experience.
Students receive frequent developmental counseling from their U.S. Army officer and non-commissioned officer (NCO) instructors. Cadets are encouraged to participate in Army ROTC extracurricular activities such as the Ranger Challenge Team and Color Guard.
Cadets have opportunities to attend professional development training programs each summer such as Airborne School, Air Assault School, Northern Warfare School, Mountain Warfare School, or Cadet Troop Leadership Training.