Norwich students take oath of office
By MEL HUFF Staff Writer | May 11,2008
NORTHFIELD Gen. James E. Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, administered the oath of office to 91 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps officers of the Norwich University class of 2008 at Saturday's commissioning ceremony.
After the young men and women solemnly swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," the new ensigns and second lieutenants lined up for their parents to pin the insignia of their rank to their uniforms. Then, one by one, the officers received their first salute from a mentor, shook his hand and gave him a silver dollar as a gesture of thanks for his guidance.
Earlier in the day, 2nd Lt. Paul Corcoran, attended by his parents and classmates, was commissioned to the U.S. Army by his brother, Capt. Erik Corcoran, who is stationed in Baghdad. It is the first time at Norwich that a commissioning has been carried out via Web cam and telephone conference from Iraq, Corcoran's mother said.
This year Norwich University commissioned the highest number of Marine Corps officers of any college or university, with the exception of the U.S. Naval Academy.
"Norwich has historically commissioned a pretty high number of new officers into the Armed Forces," said Col. Steve Pomeroy, the Marine officer who heads Norwich's ROTC program. Norwich University is the second smallest of the nation's six senior military colleges but ranks in the middle in the size of its corps of cadets, he said.
Being in the corps of cadets doesn't obligate students to military service, and normally no more than 40 percent of the graduating cadets join, but before the end of July Pomeroy expects to have commissioned about 120 men and women nearly two-thirds of the class.
"Most of them chose this military corps of cadets lifestyle after 9/11, so they knew what they were getting into," Pomeroy said. "They are young men and women who are going in with their eyes wide open, going in in time of war. Whether they agree with the political causes, they see that the nation needs a vibrant armed force, and they chose to step up to the plate and play."
One of the reasons for the increase in commissioned officers is the growth of the Army and Marine Corps.
During the Cold War, about three million men and women served in the country's armed forces. After Desert Storm and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the numbers were cut in almost in half. "Because of the commitment of the global war on terror, we may have cut it a little too much," Pomeroy observed.
In response to criticism about Army units being deployed repeatedly and there not being enough time between deployments, the Department of Defense increased the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
The Army has increased its "end strength" by about 40,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by as many as 20,000. "With this increased end strength, they need more officers to lead their people," Pomeroy said, "so there are greater opportunities to become an officer in the Army and the Marine Corps."
Pomeroy is retiring from active duty at the end of June. Looking back, he sees that the changes that have taken place during his career have resulted in a much better military.
"When I entered active duty, the draft had just ended, but of course there were still many draftees on active duty. We didn't have the all-volunteer force, and pretty much anyone who wanted to join the military could." Consequently, Pomeroy said, "We had some serious problems in the military, just like the nation did. We had racial tensions, some drug abuse. We had some folks that weren't physically qualified or were in the military for the wrong reasons."
Pomeroy pronounced the military "four-fold better" than when he joined: "Its technological capability is second to none, and as far as highly qualified, enthusiastic young people it couldn't be better.
"I think the all-volunteer military is here to stay," he declared. "When you're dealing with educated, motivated people that want to be there, they're a lot easier to lead than uneducated people who don't want to be there."
Pomeroy has served through significant political changes and periods of contraction and expansion of the military.
"I'm confident in our democratic process, no matter who's in charge," he said. "As always, we'll salute smartly and do what's best for the nation with the leadership that the nation gives us. So it doesn't matter who's president we'll still have a loyal military. We'll let the President and the Congress form policy, and we'll carry it out when they ask us to."