Although Sept. 11 is already a day that will always be remembered by Americans, on Monday USF created a new memory for its students in the ROTC program.
ROTC students, along with faculty and staff, welcomed a large group of retired military personnel, members of the USF Board of Trustees, and special guest congressman C.W. Bill Young, R-FL, to a groundbreaking ceremony for the Joint Military Leadership Center. Although the facility won’t be completed until mid-late fall 2007, students are excited to be a part of this historic moment.
“We’ve been hearing about this building ever since I was a freshman in 2003 so it’s kind of neat to see it go off,” said Thomas Guglielmi a senior majoring in political science. “Of course it will be done long after we’re gone but it’s nice to know that I was here when it started.”
To commemorate the groundbreaking and remind attendees of the day’s significance, several artifacts from the attacks were given to USF President Judy Genshaft, which will later be placed in the new facility. The artifacts included a piece of steel from a World Trade Center tower, soil from the Pennsylvania crash site of Flight 93 and flags that flew over New York’s City Hall and the Pentagon this summer.
“I did not know previously about the artifacts that were going to be given to me and that was very special,” Genshaft said. “This is a day that always brings sadness and tears to people’s eyes, so to have artifacts with in reach from the 9/11 tragedies will always serve as a reminder.”
Many in attendance were active, reservist or retired military personnel who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan or other wars. Men and women dressed in full uniform talked solemnly about their experiences at war.
“Well I certainly spent some time this morning and during the ceremony obviously thinking about Sept. 11 and how important that is. And I think the thing that I thought of the most was how important this War on Terror is and this war on destroying people that are trying to kill us,” said Lt. Colonel Kent Ralston, Marine Corp Quality Inspector Instructor for the Fourth Assault Amphibian Battalion headquartered in Tampa.
“I hope that we can take care of this enemy and eradicate this enemy before one day they’re in this program and they have to go do it, so I’m hoping that we take care of business now so that our kids don’t have to.”
When the new facility is complete, all branches of the ROTC will be taught under the same roof, a first for any college ROTC program in the nation.
“I think that it’s going to be a great learning center to put all these different services together so you can develop a joint mindset and it sounds like it going to be one of the first facilities of its kind in the United States,” Ralston said. “I think its going to be a great tool not only for the school to promote and attract the young people coming in here that are desiring to serve in the military and go to college, but I think its going to put USF on the cutting edge of NROTC and military studies.”
The JMLC will not just be used by the ROTC program but will also provide auditoriums for the University as a whole. Four classrooms and a 360-seat auditorium will be used by ROTC and two 200-seat auditoriums will be available for the rest of USF. The building will also provide office space for JMLC administrative purposes.
The joint learning techniques will serve as a test program for other colleges thinking about doing something similar.
“Well, this is one of the unique programs. It’s both a pilot program and the first time ever that we’ve established a joint ROTC program in the United States,” Genshaft said. “Everybody is looking at us for this; and it really provides an opportunity for us to show our leadership potential.”