A glimpse into Loyola’s ROTC program

Q&A with Lt. Col. Sean Gallagher

By Marisa Pizzulli, '15  |  Photo by Marisa Pizzulli

LTC Sean Gallagher teaches upper-division military science courses at Loyola.

Marisa Pizzulli,15, spoke with him about his courses, Mission Command and the Army Profession and Mission Command and the Company Grade Officer, and developing leaders of character, commitment, and competence for the United States Army—and beyond.

What do you hope students will take away from the courses?

Our job is to develop leaders for our nation’s army. That is the whole purpose of the military science department here at Loyola: take educated young men and women and make them leaders for our soldiers.

We bring them in as freshmen and they progress to more advanced methods of leadership development to the point where they end up as seniors, empowered to lead our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors through training. They plan, prepare, execute, and assess everything that we do here on campus.

And we empower the senior cadets to go through the steps and processes they will go through as first and second lieutenants in our army.

Is there a difference teaching at a Jesuit institution?

Absolutely.

I attended high school at Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, but I spent the rest of my adult education at public state universities, and I would say that the difference here at Loyola is the fact that the students pull from that “whole person” education, which is the foundation of the Jesuits and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

More importantly, our students have grounding in ethics and theology that will help and aid them in their decision making as they move on.

That is not to say that students at public universities aren’t capable of this, but it is not as interwoven into their curriculum as it is here at Loyola. And I think that’s an added benefit, because we talk about building leaders of character, commitment, and competence for our nation. Character starts developing at home when you’re raised with your family and continues through your faith and education. I, as an instructor, can only polish and add to what has already been put down. But having the parallel efforts of the curriculum, faculty, and administration here at Loyola only serves to enhance our cadets in their development towards being values-based leaders.

What makes an ROTC class different from other courses?

First, our cadets wear uniforms to class. Second, in the classroom they adhere to military customs and courtesies, so when an officer enters the room, they come to attention.

We look to achieve their training using the Army Soldier Leader (ASLTE) training methodology. We give experience-based learning; we augment their regular classes with what we call leadership labs, in which we teach things such as small-unit leadership and solving complex problems in different environments.

In addition, our cadets are required to participate in physical fitness training three mornings a week from 6:15-7:15 a.m. All this goes towards a two-credit course that counts towards their GPA.

On top of that, about one or two weekends a semester we will take them out for field training exercises off campus. Cadets are immersed into different environments to practice leadership. They practice leading platoons through different problem-solving scenarios. Then we evaluate how they lead and how they approach it using Army processes and problem-solving techniques.

Just when they think they know the answer, we will change the environment. For example, students will face a problem where they think they are going to go out and meet somebody, and it turns out to be the enemy; or they think they are going to go meet the enemy, and they meet a mother and child looking for help. These scenarios are all based off of the experiences our faculty have had through their various deployments around the world.

Does ROTC have a list of courses that are required in order to graduate?

Yes and no. A student comes into ROTC and could be an engineering, business, or education major.

The basic requirement for a student to earn commission as a second lieutenant is, first and foremost, to earn his or her bachelor degree from an accredited university such as Loyola.

They also have to gain credit for all levels of military science, from the 100-level to the 400-level. And a cadet has to complete one mandatory history course that focuses on American military history. We have an awesome history department here at Loyola that offers a number of courses that fulfill the requirement.

They must complete a training camp between their junior and senior year in Fort Knox, Ky., and they must meet all physical fitness requirements.

Those are the basic things that the students need to accomplish in order to gain their commission. But the biggest one is getting a degree; without it, a cadet cannot be commissioned at all.

Is there anything surprising about ROTC?

Most people probably don’t realize that ROTC is the single biggest source of officers for our army. About 65 percent of our Army Officer Corps is made up of ROTC graduates.

Another thing people might find interesting about our program is that it also services Towson University, Goucher College, and Notre Dame University Maryland. We have cadets from all these schools, as well; they commute from all over the North Baltimore area to participate. For the most part, 80 percent of all ROTC activities happen on Loyola’s campus. Some 100- or 200-level courses are offered at Towson, but most occur here.

The ROTC is going to be commissioning our 60th anniversary class this May, and we are hoping to have some of the members of the first Class of 1955 to attend our ceremony.

The Loyola program has produced one of our nation’s few astronauts to come from the United States Army. Col. T.J. Creamer, ’82, rose to the ranks of NASA and became an astronaut, the rarest badge awarded in the Army. We also have 10 National Scholarship winners in our freshman class, the largest number in years. Typically we only have three or four.

What is your message to students who are interested in becoming part of the ROTC program?

If you’re looking for a challenge, if you’re looking to gain invaluable experience—not only as a leader, but general experience in a profession—ROTC is for you.

And we offer flexibility, so if you want to study engineering and build buildings in downtown Baltimore for a design firm as an engineer, you can still be in ROTC, get all the scholarships and benefits that go along with it, and just pursue a guaranteed reserve forces duty scholarship. You absolutely have the ability to do that.

Conversely, if you want to be that hard-charging officer who desires to go out there and be an Army Ranger, jump out of airplanes, ride around in tanks, or fly helicopters on active duty—you can do that as well.

We will develop you as a leader and provide you real-world experience that’ll have many impacts on your life down the line.

We’ve got graduates of this program that have been successful in just about every sector of life, from banking and finance to marketing, business, and education.

The Army is an institution that has been around for 238 years. Your service is just a mere sliver of time.

The most important thing you can take away from the Army is leadership skills and that desire to serve others. If you are wondering what’s in it for you, then you don’t belong here. You need to come to ROTC with the idea that you’re going to develop as a leader to serve others and your fellow citizens of our nation.

What sets students who participate in ROTC apart from other college students?

At the end of the day, when we produce a Second Lieutenant, they are going to show up on Commencement Weekend and get their second lieutenant bars on their shoulders on a Friday morning at Alumni Chapel. The next day, they are going to walk across that stage to get their degree from Fr. Linnane and the Board of Trustees here at Loyola, and then they are going to be off—to the reserves, guards, or active duty—to lead the young men and women of this nation. And they are going to be trusted, not only with their lives, but with the millions of dollars of government equipment and responsibility that is immense.

A second lieutenant commissioned from the Greyhound Battalion can be deployed in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan within a year, as some of our recent graduates have experienced. They will be in charge of a whole valley full of villages with local population. This is an incredible responsibility for a young man or women, 23-24 years of age, to be handling.

That is why it is important for them to take everything seriously, not only here but continuing on forward. And that’s really just the beginning. Leadership excellence for the nation starts in the Greyhound Battalion, where Strong Truths Well Lived meets Army Strong. We look to develop leaders of character, commitment, and competence for the United States Army that will lead, learn, serve, and win in a complex and changing world.

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