Caption Arrow

The Volunteer Force, 1973-1989

In 1971, the last class of students to participate in the mandatory ROTC classes graduated. This class, with 26 students receiving commissions, represented the end of the era of large ROTC graduating classes and the traditional concept of officer recruitment. With the end of the Vietnam War and the advent of the volunteer army, many changes took place within the army. The primary challenge, how to convert from a conscripted army to a volunteer army, changed many aspects of officer acquisition. At the same time, the army began an effort to regain public confidence. The attitudes of the times, the end of the draft, the end of an unpopular war, and major organizational changes all combined to foster an extremely diminished propensity for military service. This reality was shown in the commissioning statistics: 1974–five; 1975–nine; 1976–two; and 1977–four.

The decline in enrollment was apparent nationwide. At the national level, a reversal began with the fall enrollment statistics of 1973. This reversal was not seen at St. Norbert College until the fall of 1975.

Nationwide, turmoil within the ROTC was addressed by the St. Norbert College cadre in several ways. In line with Dr. Christins inaugural year innovations, the ROTC department under PMS Lt. Col. Ralph J. Peterson placed maximum emphasis on the leadership and management aspects of its course offerings. The 1970-71 school year saw the establishment of a cross-enrolled program with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, affording students an opportunity for leadership and service otherwise not open to them. Although only two UWGB students indicated positive intentions, numerous inquiries were received, predicting the establishment of an excellent cross-enrolled program. Additionally, there was an infusion of new activities, such as rafting and rappelling and the rebirth of the drill team, along with an increased visibility of the cadre personnel. This visibility renewed the interest of the administration and faculty who supported ROTC. This was exemplified particularly between 1969 and 1971, during the tenure of Petersen. The ROTC program again became very active on campus as exemplified by the department-wide participation during the first Earth Day and Petersens additional duties as assistant football coach. The most dynamic and progressive change, however, was the introduction of women into the program in 1974. Kathy Perry, a veteran and a UWGB student, was the first woman commissioned from this program. Cadet Mary Guerts was, in 1979, the first woman to be selected as cadet battalion commander. Since that time, women have played an integral role in all aspects of ROTC.

During the summers of 1974 and 1975, the Army Reserve established the resident phase of the Command and General Staff College (C&GSC) on the campus. These courses brought a large number of senior Army Reserve officers from across the nation to St. Norbert College. The facilities and extremely positive reception during these years once again exemplified the close relationship between St. Norbert and the Army. This attitude was fostered and encouraged by the daily social hours and memorable softball games held between the C&GSC students and St. Norbert faculty.

Turmoil and continued self-analysis brought to the surface the question of the ROTCs status at UWGB in October 1975. Repetitive voting by the faculty and faculty senate resulted in both the voting out and regularizing of this program in the fall of 1978. The military-science program is now a bona fide pre-professional program at UWGB. Student graduates have gone on to tremendous success and contribution as a result of this acceptance. The support of UWGB cannot be under-emphasized in the list of successes and achievement by Green Knight battalion officers.

Even with the revised aspects of the program, low enrollment forced the organization of a Fox River Valley Consortium in 1977. The consortium consisted of Ripon College, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and St. Norbert College. This organization existed until 1983. The number of commissions varied during these years from four to 15. This variance may have been influenced by the fact that three different professors of military science held command within a five-year period.

Significant change within a military-science department requires at least two to three years for positive visible results. However, even during the somewhat confusing years of the consortium, changes did occur and progress did take place that led to a more stable program. Such work and foresight caused the consortium to be dismantled and each consortium school redesignated as a host institution. At the national level, this coincided with an increased emphasis on the establishment and qualitative improvement of the all-volunteer Army.

Army-wide, new emphasis was placed on making qualitative leadership and management improvements. This effort was also apparent within the ROTC. On campus, classes were revised to support the newly established Cadet Command regulations. Repetitive and confusing guidance contributed to great turmoil during the establishment of the current pre-commissioning learning and training requirements. The publication of Military Qualification Standards I has reduced much of the confusion of the years since 1971.

As the buildup of the volunteer Army caused the expansion of the ROTC in the early 1980s, its dismemberment has caused the loss of 50 host schools nationwide under the direction of OPLAN Horizon. Beginning in the fall of 1989, a series of events took place that directly contributed to the demise the Green Knight Battalion.

Many of the recruiting incentives devised in the 1980s were withdrawn. The most significant options affecting the Green Knight Battalion were loss of the Early Commissioning Program (ECP), the loss of two-year scholarships, and the requirement for year-group alignment. The two-year scholarship was an extremely popular option for the students of this area. Traditionally, large basic-course classes provided an outstanding population of high-performing students. When coupled with a strong marketing campaign, this option routinely produced results.

The ECP permitted veterans of Initial Entry Training the option of immediate entry into the advanced or commissioning program. Commissioning could occur prior to graduation from college. During the 1989-90 school year, this option was eliminated and the requirement to align a students ROTC year with their college standing established. This guidance also stated that only students who graduated would receive commissions. These standards appeared to be reasonable and were implemented immediately. However, routine program evaluation was greatly affected by the realignment process. Commissioning requirements and the number of cadets contracted under the changed system did not coincide. The total number of cadets recruited within the two-year option was spread over several other year groups, causing a severe shortage within the 1990, 1991 and 1993 commissioning years. The viability computation under OPLAN Horizon was based upon the programs four-year weighted production, enrollment, its current and projected production, the current quality of officers produced, and the academic degrees of the commissionees. The Green Knight Battalion was not competitive in all areas. Current production due to elimination of the two-year option caused some cadets to align with future mission sets outside of the years evaluated for viability. This situation resulted in the lowest number of commissionees in 14 years. To say that this program and at least one other in the state was evaluated during the wrong year for a valid appraisal is a tremendous understatement.

Even with the downsizing, St. Norbert College would still provide high-achieving, quality officers for many years to come. The program would survive as a cross-enrolled school with University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, a program started by St. Norbert College in the 1970s.

At the close of the school year in 1991, enrollments were still increasing. They included the following:

  • Mission set 1992–6 contracted
  • Mission set 1993–8 committed, 2 probable
  • Mission set 1994–10 committed, 1 probable

These statistics did not include approximately 50 pre-registered students, nor the influx of veterans who would leave the service and return to college in the fall of 1991. This enrollment was accomplished without the benefit of a recruiting effort.

The material on this page is drawn from a St. Norbert College ROTC history book compiled by ROTC alumnus and former military science professor Mike Egan.   

Back To Top Arrow