Students will be able to participate in a Navy ROTC program this fall, marking the first time Princeton has offered such a program since 1972. The program will be based at Rutgers, and Princeton students will travel to Rutgers for their classes and training.
Captain Philip Roos, the Commanding Officer of the Navy ROTC program at Rutgers as well as the crosstown program at Princeton, said the logistics of the program have not yet been totally decided, though he noted that Princeton students would travel to Rutgers multiple times a week by train, car or bicycle to attend their classes and training.
The Army ROTC program now has over 80 cadets, around 20 of whom are students at the University, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Knight Ph.D., the Director of the Army Office Education Program at the University, said.
“[A Navy ROTC program is] a welcome addition,” Knight said. “Military service is not a job, it’s a calling, and students who are willing to step up and serve should have a choice of where to serve. The nation will be better for it.”
Knight explained that he did not think the added option of a Navy ROTC program would draw students away from the existing Army program.
“One or two [students will join the Navy program rather than the Army], perhaps, but the bottom line is people know what we’re about, and people don’t come to Army ROTC just for the scholarship,” Knight said. “Princeton is a very well-endowed university, so the money isn’t really the issue. The issue is service, and the kids that are in this program are here because they want to be.”
Haydn Melia ’17, who is a cadet in the Army ROTC program, said that he had discussed with his battalion whether they would have participated in Navy ROTC rather than Army ROTC had the option been available.
“One of them said he would have preferred to do Navy,” Melia said. “I don’t know why, but he did say that was his preference. Most people I do not think would have made a different decision, but who knows?”
Melia added that, personally, he did not feel called to serve in the Navy.
“I wouldn’t have done Navy,” Melia explained. “I prefer Army because I don’t want to drown if I go Navy; I don’t want to blow up in the sky if I go Air Force. I’d rather die on the ground, so I picked Army.”
The Navy ROTC program left the University in 1972 due to student protests of the Vietnam War and the draft. Protests led to the departure of ROTC programs at many other Ivy League schools as well, some of which welcomed programs back on campus after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011. Princeton, however, did not make changes to its recognition of ROTC as an outside organization.
The University has hosted an Army ROTC program since 1919 and, when anti-war sentiment drove the Air Force ROTC program from campus in 1972, Princeton allowed students to participate in a cross-town affiliate Air Force program at Rutgers.
The Rutgers Navy ROTC program is itself very new, as it was established in 2012.
“Though a crosstown relationship for our new unit at Rutgers is something novel,” Roos said, “with the experience I’ve got on my staff, I think it will take some work, but it won’t be too much of a challenge to fully integrate Princeton into our program.”