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 In a few years the pilot will no longer represent the chief skill; scientists, technicians, and business administrators will be the men most in demand.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.

Summer Camp

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."