Yale welcomes Air Force, Naval ROTC units back to campus
By JIM SHELTON | New Haven Register | Published: September 22, 2012
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — In a ceremony laden with military formality and crisp, brisk salutes, Yale University officially welcomed the return of Air Force and Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps units to campus Friday.
Bright sunshine greeted the 12 midshipmen and 38 cadets as they marched into Hewitt Quadrangle, where they were met by university and military dignitaries at the stone cenotaph honoring Yale students who died in World War I.
It marked the first time Yale has had an ROTC detachment since the Vietnam War era.
“The Navy, the Air Force and Yale have worked together this past year with one goal in mind — your arrival, and the launch of programs that will prepare you to be the best officer candidates in the nation,” Yale President Richard C. Levin told the students.
“We believe in you and in your capacity to make a great contribution to this nation,” Levin said.
Yale’s decision to resume an affiliation with ROTC came after the government repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay people in the military in December 2010. Yale signed ROTC agreements with the Navy and the Air Force last year.
Levin also noted that 140 Yale students this year signed up for a new class, developed in conjunction with the Air Force, on the impact of air power on war and world history.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower & Reserve Affairs Juan Garcia III pointed out that Yale had formed one of the nation’s original six naval ROTC units in 1926, and he praised the university for helping provide financial aid to veterans returning to school.
“This is true, tangible patriotism,” Garcia said.
Garcia also spoke to the midshipmen about the serious nature of a commitment to the military today.
“As we speak, the nation calls upon its Navy to continue a brutal fight in Afghanistan, where the fighting in the last week has been just as brutal as any we’ve seen in the last 11 years,” he said.
In the years ahead, he continued, Navy officers will be asked to help with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, master the latest technology and fight piracy, in addition to wartime duties.
“Thanks for your leadership, thanks for your commitment and we’ll see you in the fleet,” Garcia told the midshipmen.
Yale’s naval ROTC detachment includes eight Yale students and 30 students from area colleges: Southern Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Western Connecticut State University, Fairfield University and Wesleyan University.
Lt. Gen. David Fadok, commander and president of Air University, called the return of ROTC to Yale “a historic event” for the military. “I have personally witnessed how the Yale and New Haven communities have truly embraced our officers, non-commissioned officers and students who make up Detachment 009,” he said.
Fadok also urged the cadets to maintain the high standards of the U.S. Air Force. “Keep it the great air force this world will ever see,” he said.
One of those cadets, 18-year-old Yale freshman John Bodeau, said after the ceremony that his dual transition to Yale and the military has gone well so far.
“It’s a good place to challenge your beliefs,” Bodeau said. “You’re surrounded by all political beliefs, constantly. The biggest surprise about Yale has been how welcoming it was. I thought it would be more intense.”
Yale sophomore Sam Cohen, a 20-year-old midshipman, said his ROTC training includes classes twice a week, plus a lab class.
“And there’s the physical training, of course,” Cohen said. He added that ROTC appealed to him because, “it’s the only where, straight out of college, you have so much responsibility.”