Should AFROTC Adjust To Harvard?
As the Cold War enters its eighteenth year, the Air Force faces a revolution in its military role. Because the missile is now replacing both the bomber and fighter, the principal task of the Air Force is becoming that of developing and installing ballistic and anti-aircraft missiles throughout the continental United States. In a few years the pilot will no longer represent the chief skill; scientists, technicians, and business administrators will be the men most in demand.
Harvard's Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps reflects this rapid change in the Air Force's complexion. Over the last three years the University has graduated only three cadets who entered flight training. The same number will probably do so during the next three years. Air Force ROTC at Harvard is now directed toward the realistic goal of training bureaucrats.
With only 70 cadets, Harvard's AFROTC is one of the smallest in the country. About ten cadets are graduated yearly at a cost of $7,000 per graduate, which is nearly the average for all 300 schools in the program. The Air Force also trains the Harvard cadet in much the same manner as that of any other college; he marches as often, takes the same standard course material, and receives the same allowance as the cadet, at say, Alabama State.
The heart of the training program, and the part most visible to the community is called Leadership Laboratory. In the fall and spring, Leadership Lab consists of cadets marching other cadets around the soccer field in preparation for the two joint-ROTC reviews.
During the winter the unit is briefed indoors on the essentials of the Air Force's mission, its customs, career opportunities, and graduate study programs. The briefing task is shared by the detachment's three officer instructors, upperclass cadets, and by guest lecturers ranging from fighter pilots to Henry A. Kissinger, professor of Government.
The responsibility for carrying out the objectives and program of Leadership Lab which are carefully spelled out in Air Force manuals, lies mainly in the hands of the cadets themselves. One of the main reasons for having Leadership Lab at all, in fact, is to give upperclassmen a practice run in Air Force bureaucracy. Peter Pignone '63, the Cadet Commander, has a staff of advanced corps cadets, each of whom has a specific place and function in the hierarchy. One cadet draws up a plan of events or "operations," another runs the athletic program, a third keeps data on merits, demerits, and attendance.
According to present Air Force doctrine the goal of Leadership Lab is to create an authoritarian environment corresponding to that in which the typical Air Force officer finds himself. The combined experience of drill and staff work is intended to produce an officer who as a subordinate will follow orders promptly and efficiently and who as a superior will issue them with proper forethought, timing and clan.
Recently, the theory and practice of Leadership Lab has been the subject of considerable rethinking, both by cadets and by the Department of Air Science. With the changing nature of the Air Force officer in mind, many cadets question the logic of spending so much time and effort on drill maneuvers that are largely irrelevant to their future Air Force positions as scientists, lawyers, and administrators. Freshmen are often discouraged early in the program by the discipline, the strange artificial military manner of communicating, the mild hazing and other trappings of the drill situation-- all of which come under the general rubic of "Mickey Mouse."
In their intensive studies of the drop-out problem (70 percent of a class usually leaves the program by the junior year), cadets have run across sentiments like that of the former member of AFROTC who lamented that "the lothsome part now comes first."
Yet, there are plenty of cadets--harried freshmen among them--who would like to see a tightening of discipline, more, not less, drill, and a continued emphasis on the spit and polish aspect of training. "The Air Force is not all business administration," observed one cadet. "Equally important to the prospective officer is the learning of teamwork, discipline, morale, and the military tradition.
A synthesis is emerging from this reconsideration of the place of Leadership Lab that will probably result--at Harvard, at least--in shorter, but more intense drill periods. Col. Edward M. Lyman, professor of Air Science, plans to substitute orientation sessions in place of fall drill to give incoming freshmen a more rounded picture of the Air Force before subjecting them to the "loathsome" part of the program.
Even some of the "hard line" cadets, however, question the need for a summer version of Leadership Lab. During the summer of their junior year cadets must attend what amounts to a month of boot camp. The basic justification for subjecting a cadet to "Summer Training Unit" is that it prepares him for a combat situation in which few cadets, particularly the academically minded, will ever find themselves. Most of this year's seniors, while admitting a certain irrelavancy of summer camp, considered it a valuable test of emotional stability under high pressure. They objected, however, to the Air Force's taking a month out of their summer--which made getting a decent job impossible--without giving them any monetary compensation.
The cadets seem to be more agreed on the value of the four semesters of required Air Science courses. No one disputes the need to be acquainted with the history, mission, and operating procedures of one's future employer.
Air Science 31, which covers everything from public speaking to behavorial psychology, is considered particularly worthwhile. Nevertheless, there is a consensus that many of the textbooks are filled with so much trivia that reading is often dull and unenlightening chore. Probably a representative opinion is that of cadet David B. McIlhiney '64, who said, "A great deal of the curriculum has not been and never can be directed toward the intellectual. Yet Harvard AFROTC would greatly benefit from a more academic approach."
The three officers of the Department of Air Science are responding to this need for an increased theoretical content in the curriculum. Already they have beefed up the elementary text-books with selections from such varied writers as Henry Kissinger, Mao-Tse-Tung, and assorted Rand Corporation analysts. Next year Col. Lyman will introduce special seminars for those cadets particularly interested in the latest developments in Air Force strategic thought.
The voluntary activities of the unit provide a welcome means of self-expression and initiative apart from the regimented parts of the program. The unit has its own rifle, judo, drill (for those who actually like marching), and volleyball teams. The cadet newspaper Hot Air often serves as a sounding board for such theses as "Patriotism seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of one's liberal education."
Beer blasts, dinner parties, and elaborate long-distance trips to places like Cape Canaveral are not only fun, but they also promote cameraderie without which cadet functions would become more lackluster and mechanical than they often are. "The extra activities of the program," commented Peter Beck '64, "are in some respects a saving grace of the program."
In spite of the saving graces, Harvard's AFROTC squadron suffers from a high attrition rate: the last five graduating classes have amounted to only 30 per cent of the original freshman class. Presently, there are only seven seniors and ten juniors in the program. A growing negative attitude toward the military and "Mickey Mouse" in general apparently accounts for a large number of dropouts; others quit because they do not have sufficient time or because they cannot pass the physical exam. Most students who leave the unit were never very interested in AFROTC from the beginning. Since a student is not required to make a firm committment to AFROTC at the start of his freshman year, as he must for Army and Navy ROTC, a considerable number join just to "take a look and try it a while."
Those cadets who remain through their senior year do so from a variety of motives. Chief among them is the desire to complete one's military obligation as an officer rather than as an enlisted man. Several cadets feel patriotically bound to serve in the military, others wish to fly, and a small minority plan to make the Air Force their career.
Larry W. Wolf '63, who does not expect to be a career officer, explained his motives on general grounds: "The self-confidence that I built up and the experience of taking and giving orders is in itself a justification for completing the program. Wherever you work, you will be required to follow the instructions of those above you and to instruct those below you."
A lure of growing significance is the Air Force's offer to pay for graduate studies predominantly in the natural sciences and at the same time pay an officer his regular salary. The scheme is aimed particularly at the science and engineering major; 70 percent of the members of AFROTC are natural science concentrators compared to a Harvard average of 30 per cent.
The Air Force realizes, however, that it does not dangle enough lures to induce a sufficient number of students to join AFROTC and stay in it. At Harvard, for example, AFROTC's average of ten graduating cadets for each of the last five years is far less than the 35 to 45 cadets a year which Army and Navy programs have produced. The AFROTC's monthly allowance of $27 does not begin to compare with the Navy's Holloway Plan, which pays all costs of a naval cadet's college education. The Army's low active-duty requirement of two years is one of its prime drawing cards. On the other hand, the Air Force requires its ROTC graduates to serve four years.
The Air Force has responded to this challenge of a high drop-out rate nationally by presenting to Congress the Air Officer Educational Program, which provides for (1) a condenser two-year plan in place of the present four-year one, (2) relegating all Leadership Lab and drill to two summer camps, and (3) a scholarship of $1,100 per year. The entire plan will probably be implemented by the fall of 1964.
During the first years of operation at Harvard, AFOEP will probably enroll more students that the present AFROTC program. To be a long-range success, however, AFOEP will have to appear very attractive to the Harvard man.
If the predictions of the Bender Report are an accurate guide, the trend toward academicism in the College should hurt ROTC programs as well as extra-curricular activities. The Air Force will have to adjust even more than it has to the academic orientation of Harvard and similar universities if it is to be able to attract the elite college graduates which it desires