Should AFROTC Adjust To Harvard?

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 Extras

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