Virginia State University prepares future military leaders

By MARKUS SCHMIDT | The (Petersburg, Va.) Progress-Index | Published: December 29, 2012

ETTRICK, Va. - Virginia State University made the 2013 Military Friendly Schools list, putting VSU in the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace the nation's military service members, veterans and spouses.

Currently, where are 237 ROTC programs nationwide.

Room 106 in Jesse Bolling Building is Lt. Col. Dan Maloney's office, professor of military science and head of VSU's Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Maloney is a tall man with Army-style cropped hair, glasses and a firm handshake. Even on campus he wears a uniform. He joined VSU last year and teaches leadership and military tactics - and he is proud of how far the school has come.

"Many people are not aware that VSU is a commission source for the U.S. military," Maloney said. "We're required to commission at least 14 cadets each year, but we generally get about 20," he said.

ROTC at VSU has been in place since 1947. The current commanding general of the Army Material Command, Dennis Via, a four-star general, one of only 10 in the Army, is a 1982 graduate of VSU. Other generals have been commissioned out of VSU.

Maloney, who lives with his wife and their four children in Colonial Heights, has been an active duty Army officer for 24 years. Born in Wichita, Kan., Maloney enlisted at age 24. He became a photo journalist in the U.S. Army but after about four years, he decided that he wanted to join the higher ranks. In 1994, he was commissioned as an ordinance officer under logistics.

Maloney served in Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Germany and Kosovo, where he commanded 212 soldiers in a maintenance company. He got a first taste of teaching at Central Michigan University, where he was assistant professor of military science for three years.

Eventually, Maloney ended up at Fort Lee and in 2011 heard of the vacant teaching position at VSU. He was selected in August that year.

"This is a fantastic and unique opportunity to link arms with the past and the future," Maloney said. "I'm using my experience to help groom the future leaders of the Army. We take what we do very seriously.

Just like in football or basketball, the ROTC program is looking for the best and brightest high school seniors to come to VSU and help them get a career in the military or government. "We also commission reserve component officers, for those who want to have a dual career," Maloney said. "And we have 'Green to Gold' students, which are generally active duty soldiers who submit a package and complete their last two years of college and who can then commission as Army officers."

Military science as a leadership program awards a minor degree. A majority of VSU students are liberal arts and education, mass communication, sociology or criminal justice. Others major in engineering, math and computer science. "They all come to VSU to get a degree and then they couple that with ROTC classes," Maloney said.

Before launching their four-year run, future cadets are required to pass an Army physical test and the Department of Defense Medical Evaluation. "Generally, the program is designed for freshmen 17 or 18 years of age who come to college and take a military science class every semester. When they are seniors, they have met all commission requirements," Maloney said.

Currently, there are 120 students in the program. "Usually during their sophomore year they are making a decision to contract," Maloney said. "That's when they make a commitment to stay with the program."

On average, that's 20 officers every year. "The freshmen are all very eager to come in. Some come from military families, they kind of know about the program and they see the opportunity it provides," Maloney said. "We generally don't have a problem filling our freshman class. The cutline starts after the freshman year, that's when we get more into tactics and that's when most students figure out if this is something they want to do. We also require physical training three times a week at 5:30 a.m. To some, that's something they are not used to," he said.

After their instruction is complete after four years, VSU has a commissioning ceremony, where the cadets become second lieutenants. Swearing in is in front of all their peers and the whole commencement audience. "That's kind of unique to VSU and it makes it really special," Maloney said.

They young men and women who are commissioned go on active duty. "They go right into being a platoon leader, which is very serious business because they can find themselves deployed," Maloney said.

Maloney hopes to stay with VSU for a long time. "A university community is similar to the military. It becomes your second family," he said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


comments Join the conversation and share your voice!