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UPDATED: February 4, 2016, at 12:04 p.m.
Four-star Air Force General Darren W. McDew discussed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Harvard and the task of attracting millennials to the military before an audience of students and professors at Quincy House Wednesday.
McDew, who is the commander of the United States Transportation Command— which controls all transportation for the Department of Defense— emphasized the importance of ROTC at Harvard and more generally, saying such programs “allo[w] the American public to better understand its military.”
“In our democratic society, it’s vitally important that we have the support of the American public,” he said.
Harvard—which began its Army ROTC program in 1916 and its Navy ROTC program in 1926, and dropped both 1995 after protests criticized the military’s policies toward homosexuals—reinstated the Navy ROTC program in 2011 and Army ROTC in 2012 after the military repealed its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Harvard currently does not recognize Air Force ROTC, though students and alumni are pushing for recognition.
McDew also spoke about the need for the military to evolve, both technologically and culturally. Physically, he said the armed forces need to “modernize” and eventually have “autonomous or semi-autonomous” vehicles.
The military, McDew said, also needs to adapt to the millennial generation’s changing career expectations when ranking them within the military.
“[Millennials] have a different value proposition of how long [they will] stay with something,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to look at your experiences across a broad spectrum of things, and be open to bringing you in at different places along the ladder.”
He emphasized the importance of learning to lead especially for ROTC members in attendance.
Charley M. Falletta ’16, a member of ROTC at Harvard who introduced McDew at the talk, said that it was “so interesting, and so nice that he came out for this.”
“He is really the pinnacle of success for the military,” she said.
Carolyn F. Pushaw ’16, another member of Harvard’s ROTC program, said she was also impressed with McDew.
“He was a fantastic speaker and I learned a lot. I was impressed with how down to earth he was,” she said. “To be one of the nine combatant commanders, for him to come to Harvard is a big deal.”
The event was sponsored by Harvard ROTC, the Harvard College Democrats, and the Harvard Republican Club as part of the Conversations at Harvard series.
—Staff writer Nathaniel J. Hiatt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nathaniel_hiatt.
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