Norwich remains a leader in annual commissions, says National Services dean © Jan. 18, 2008 Norwich University Office of Communications

Photo of a commissioning cadet.

photo by Jay EricsonA new officer salutes a superior during Norwich's 2007 Commissioning Ceremony.

Throughout history military officers have brought to the battlefield skills and knowledge found less-so in the enlisted ranks. This statement continues to hold true today, which is one reason officer training remains vitally important for the safety and strategic interests of the United States. For nearly 200 years, Norwich University has been a key component in providing the nation’s armed forces with outstanding leaders. Today, the University remains a frontrunner in the quality and quantity of officers it commissions annually.

Each year the US Armed Forces acquire newly minted officers through three main avenues: the US service schools, ROTC programs at private colleges and universities, and through direct commission programs, also known as officer candidacy school. By far, the US service schools churn out the most officers annually. The second largest groups come from the individual ROTC programs operating around the country. And though smaller in comparison to programs at much larger schools, Norwich’s ROTC programs continue to commission some of the highest numbers of Navy, Marine and Air Force officers in the country. And the Army program, the University’s largest, regularly falls behind only West Point in the number of fresh lieutenants who head out to various stations across the world each spring.

“Aside from the service academies, Norwich commissions the most Army officers every year,” said Col. Stephen Pomeroy, dean of the School of National Services. “This year, we’ll be Number One for the Marine Corps, as well.”

Sitting in his Plumley Armory office surrounded by Marine Corps photos, framed documents and odds and ends that illuminate his long career in the corps, Pomeroy says the ROTC programs at Norwich are strong and have been gaining in strength since the beginning of the decade. In the 1990s, he said, demographics weren’t favorable for bringing freshmen into Norwich’s classrooms. Now, and increasingly so since September 11, Norwich routinely commissions about 100 officers into the armed forces annually, Pomeroy said.

For the past couple of years, Norwich has had a pretty large freshman class, and consequently, our numbers are up.

~ Col. Stephen Pomeroy

Indeed, in 2000 Norwich saw 67 of its students advance from cadet to officer. Last year, 102 officers left the hills of Northfield to take up posts with companies, squadrons and fleets located around the world, reflecting a 65 percent increase over seven years. That number, Pomeroy said, is expected to grow this year and into the foreseeable future as more incoming freshmen enter the University.

“For the past couple of years, Norwich has had a pretty large freshman class, and consequently, our numbers are up,” Pomeroy said.

And while September 11 may have spurred more kids to apply to Norwich shortly thereafter, neither time nor growing national concern over the Iraq War and the efforts in Afghanistan seem to be affecting Norwich’s numbers.

“Most of the Corps of Cadets come from fairly conservative family backgrounds, but regardless of political persuasions, they recognize that serving their country is separate from any political agenda,” Pomeroy said. “It really doesn’t keep them from wanting to serve their country.”

Cadets taking the oath of honor.

photo by Jay EricsonCadets taking the oath during Norwich's 2007 Commissioning Ceremony.

And that’s where Norwich and the ROTC programs come in. Students who want to serve are taken under the wings of elder cadets and career military officers and taught not just to soldier, but how to lead. A strict physical regimen paired with classes covering topics such as ethics and military history prepares these future officers to deal with situations appropriately when they’re in real-world scenarios, Pomeroy said. In the colonel’s class, cadets read selections from Plato and Aristotle as well more recent authors such as James Stockdale, a POW and Medal of Honor recipient. Exploring these perspectives, Pomeroy said, will lead officers to think differently on the battlefield and in the world at large.

“What are the repercussions for taking a life? Or leading others into battle?” Pomeroy asks, noting that these questions are addressed during all cadets’ time at Norwich. “And that’s one of the biggest differences between enlisted men and officers.”

With an upcoming administration change in Washington looming, can the ROTC programs at Norwich continue to grow? According to Pomeroy, changes in the country’s leadership could affect Norwich, or they may not. Either way, he said, “…that’s not unpatriotic; that’s just the way it is.”

Regardless, Pomeroy did say that as of right now, things in the School of National Services are strong, and all signs point to them staying that way for a good time to come.

“I don’t think Norwich has much to worry about,” he said. “I think Norwich is on a very stable footing both with the Department of Defense and with those folks who come here and aren’t planning on going into active duty.”