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ROTC cadets

Exceptional Leaders

United States Army ROTC has provided leadership and military training for students like Samantha DeCapua for 100 years.

“I knew I couldn’t picture my life not serving and not going to college, so once I was introduced to ROTC at Widener I saw I could do both,” said DeCapua, a dual criminal justice and sociology major with a minor in gender and women’s studies.

The U.S Army has commissioned more than a half million officers since ROTC started in 1916. Through the years the program has become a diverse group of men and women with more than 20,000 cadets currently enrolled.

Widener’s ROTC program is one of the oldest in the northeast region. Its military roots in Chester date back to the turn of the 20th century when the university was known as Pennsylvania Military College (PMC).

In 1972, the military academy was disbanded and the name was later changed to Widener University, however the U.S Army ROTC program lives on.

“It is this rich history and the support we get from the PMC alumni that makes Widener’s program unique,” said Lt. Col. Justin J. Shaffer, commander of the Dauntless Battalion.

He also remarked that resources like the Oskin Leadership Institute have been hugely beneficial for the cadets here.

“That teamwork on campus I’ve not seen anywhere and I don’t know of any other military science programs that have that same benefit,” Shaffer said.

The U.S Army’s willingness to “grow, adapt, and learn” has also strengthened its recruitment efforts over the last 100 years, remarked Shaffer. ROTC programs now represent the best and brightest of the American population, including the exceptional cadets at Widener.

“It blows my mind the quality we are getting and it lets me know that the U.S Army and the nation are in good hands,” Shaffer said.

DeCapua added that stereotypes surrounding the rough-and-tumble Army soldier are changing, and senior cadets at Widener often mentor freshman and help develop their professionalism, character, and work ethic.

“It’s moving toward building that well-rounded leader that can communicate and present their ideas clearly, that can think critically, and adapt to ever-changing situations,” noted DeCapua, who was ranked fourth in the nation on a list of the top ROTC cadets in 2016.

As for any advice for the next 100 years of U.S Army ROTC, DeCapua hopes the cadets continue their involvement in activities at Widener that help them grow and learn.

“My motto has always been ‘try and be the best version of yourself,’” she said. “Always look for ways to better yourself as a leader, an individual, a mentor, and a friend.”