Moral Problems

When Jonathon Koomy '84 decided to join the Air Force ROTC, many of his friends were surprised. "They knew that I came from a liberal family," he says, "and that I wasn't too great at taking orders." They might also have guessed what Koomy himself did not, that he would soon have questions about the morality of involvement in the program, and that by the end of freshman year he would have dropped out altogether. "I guess I wanted to see what it was about," he says. "I saw, and I made up my mind. I just didn't want to build bombs."

Air Force ROTC officials were understanding about his decision, Koomy says. "They knew what was going on in my head, that I hadn't really thought about things before in any sort of systematized way." He pauses and adds, "It wasn't so much the program itself, which was actually a lot of fun, but the fact that if someone ordered me to do something I would have had to do it-I was terrified."

A quick glance at Koomy's Currier House room reveals that his interests lie far from the development of defense technology. A poster above his desk proclaims "Know energy, it's your future," and books like The Politics of Alternative Technology and Barry Commoner's The Closing Circle occupy his shelves. "What I really would have enjoyed doing in the Air Force is working with satellites or researching solar power," he says. "But my instructor said that even with a strong backround in physics and a Harvard degree there was no guarantee." He adds that the only way he could have stayed in the program without risk of having to work with weapons would have been to switch from a technical to a non-technical (liberal arts) scholarship, none of which were available at the time.

Koomy emphasizes that "even though it cost them $10,000 I really did learn something from ROTC: I realized that the guys who I had grown up thinking of as mean, ugly, nasty guys were really just normal people doing their job. From that viewpoint, the experience was invaluable."