Mountaineer Battalion celebrates 50 years of scholarship, athleticism and leadership

Josie Barnes

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From camping and rappelling to field training exercises and jumping out of airplanes, App State’s Army ROTC program celebrates 50 years of military-grade training. 

App State’s program is known as the “Mountaineer Battalion.” The battalion offers students the opportunity to develop their scholastics, athletics and leadership through immersion in military leadership and a well-rounded lifestyle, according to its website. 

“The primary focus of ROTC on a college campus is to take select college students and make them Army officers,” said retired Lt. Col. D.J. Weatherford, enrollment/scholarship officer and freshman instructor. 

Weatherford said ROTC exists on college campuses because the officer corps should be as diverse as universities across the nation so they can represent the American public. 

Former App State President William Plemmons requested the establishment of ROTC in August of 1967, and it was approved that November. Twenty cadets attended basic training camp for the first time two years later in 1969, marking the beginning of the program.

Maj. Gen. John Evans, a Distinguished Military Graduate from App State and commanding general at Fort Knox in Kentucky, said the program helped him focus on leadership, core army values and the ability to work with others.

“You’re a leader, but you’re also a follower. You’re in charge, but you’re also a teammate. You are trying to accomplish things, and you realize that you can’t do that unless you’ve got other people that are rolling in the same direction,” Evans said.    

The program participates in homecoming, summer training, and hosts annual military balls.

App State’s ROTC formed the Mountaineer Commandos Club in 1972, which conducts military adventure training sessions to develop individual discipline, confidence, professionalism, teamwork and leadership skills, according to the division of student affairs website.

Evans said he enjoyed the commandos for the physical rigor it provided. 

“I wasn’t playing varsity athletics at App, so this was kind of my varsity athletics, to get out there and ruck march and run and hike through the woods, but it was also mentally rigorous. You really had to think about what it was you were doing, and you had to understand the basics of tactics,” Evans said.

Hudson Stevens, an ROTC student and junior exercise science major, is a current Commandos Club participant and competed with the Ranger Challenge Team, a varsity level physical fitness organization.   

“(ROTC) has definitely shaped me to become a better leader, and it’s taught me valuable attributes like; presence and intellectual capacity with traits like mental agility, interpersonal tact, confidence, and military bearing that a successful Army officer needs,” Stevens said.

On Nov. 23, the program will celebrate its 50th anniversary with alumni, benefactors, seniors and friends at a tailgate party during the App State football game against  Texas State football game.