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ROTC Stays Put for Now at Southern Miss

HATTIESBURG, Miss.–It required some high-level letters being sent, but the ROTC program at USM will stay open for at least another two years. The move could give the U.S. Army and the Pentagon enough time to figure out reasons to shut it down, but in the mean time, all the programs are on probation.

The decision to let the programs continue came Wednesday. There was correspondence between the Pentagon, USM Pres. Dr. Rodney Bennett, senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and Cong. Steven Palazzo in hopes of keeping the program going.

“An examination of the Army’s rationale for closing the Southern Miss ROTC program made it clear that more analysis is needed.  Two years will give the Army plenty of time to more carefully consider the successful history of the Southern Miss program,” said Cochran in a statement.  “I am grateful to Secretary McHugh for this decision, and salute Dr. Bennett and Governor Bryant for their work to preserve this ROTC program.”

“I am pleased with the Army’s decision to delay the closing of the ROTC program at USM,” said Wicker. “It is unfortunate that we even need to discuss this issue given USM’s long-standing importance to our nation’s fighting forces. This delay represents just the first step in our fight to protect USM’s proud ROTC tradition. I join Senator Cochran in congratulating Gov. Bryant, Dr. Bennett, and LTC Worley on their efforts to help save the program.”

“Since 1951, USM has produced more than 1,500 diverse and superbly-qualified Army officers for service to our nation, sixteen of whom have achieved flag rank,” the lawmakers wrote McHugh.  “Given the significant contributions the graduates of this program have made to the Army, we are convinced that terminating USM’s Army ROTC program would be a disservice to the state of Mississippi and our nation.”

Cochran is vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.  Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In early October, the Army announced that 13 of 273 Reserve Officer Training Corps programs would be closed by the end of the 2014-15 academic year.

Gov. Bryant and others went to bat for USM’s program in October.

“I am very gratified that the Department of Defense has listened to the urgings of Mississippi’s public officials, its residents, the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi’s Adjutant General and will continue the USM ROTC program,” said Bryant, who is a USM alum. “It is valuable to Mississippi and the nation, and I look forward to its continued excellence. I thank Sen. Cochran, Sen. Wicker and Congressman Palazzo for their assistance in protecting this important program.”


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