ROTC students head to Bataan Death March
Sarah Brennan is team leader for the 26.2 mile Bataan Death March.
While most students are basking in their tropical and care-free spring breaks, Sarah Brennan, a 20-year-old Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) student at Metropolitan State College of Denver, is preparing to lead her first team into the desert for a 26.2 mile Bataan Death March on Sunday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Brennan’s eight-member team will compete with more than 4,000 people (including civilians) from across the nation at the 20-year-old event that honors a special group of World War II heroes. One cadet will run the course while the other seven cadets will march with 35-pound rucksacks on their backs.
Brennan, a sophomore and first-year ROTC student, has taken on quite a challenge, signing up for the event and for ROTC. She admits it’s just the way she likes it. “I know I don’t want the desk job. I want to go out and help people. I want to be an Army officer.”
Since the beginning of the semester they’ve been meeting to train at 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. “Sometimes we meet on campus and head out about 16 miles returning back to campus by 11 a.m. or noon,” says Brennan, an aviation technology major who earned her pilot’s license at 18. “Sometimes we drive to the mountains and train.”
Their work ethic is a sign of great leadership, says Maj. Martin Naranjo, who has headed the Metro State ROTC program since 2007. “They followed a very detailed training plan. They are learning that with a plan, you can achieve a lot.”
Rebuilding the program
Brennan and her team are part of a concerted effort to rebuild the ROTC program on the Metro State campus. ROTC was nonexistent on campus from 1992 to 2007. Metro State cadets, instead, drove to the University of Colorado Boulder if they wanted to be a part of ROTC, says Naranjo. “Metro State ROTC left campus due to the reduction in the size of the military that occurred in the early 90s,” says Naranjo. “Since the Army needed to produce fewer officers they decided to consolidate programs and Metro State was selected to combine with CU Boulder’s program.”
The College is now considered the Mile High Company under the University of Colorado’s ROTC program. Naranjo believes that Metro State will become an independent program in 2011 when it gets its first 10+ commissioning class.
Holding classes on the Auraria Campus provides opportunities not only for Metro State, but also seven other community colleges and private and public universities. The Mile High Company has 60 participants, 31 of those are Metro State students.
The first two years of ROTC classes are open to all students, but in order to participate in the last two years, each student must sign a contract that guarantees service as a commissioned officer upon completion of college.
Students who serve have an active-duty service obligation of four years, followed by four years at the National Guard, Army Reserve or Inactive Ready Reserve. They may also serve six years in the National Guard or Army Reserve and two years in the Inactive Ready Reserve. Those under contract, receive stipend money and in many cases, scholarships. Stipends range from $350 to $500 a month.
Brennan has signed her contract and is excited about what the future holds, including her first trek at the Bataan Death March as captain of the team.