College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Engineers learn leadership through ROTC

Being part of the Cyclone Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Battalion, recently named the top program in the 3rd Brigade, has been a source of pride and growth for Sam Pearce and Derick Light.

Sam Pearce
Sam Pearce

The engineering seniors say they are honored their group’s hard work was acknowledged at the annual Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), but the spirit of ROTC is what drives them to succeed. “Being in ROTC is really about serving others and doing something I enjoy,” says Pearce, who will graduate with a degree in civil engineering in May 2013.

From participating in exercises to advising emerging leaders, the cadets embrace their responsibilities. “The phases you pass through each year of training are building blocks for LDAC. You learn a lot about teamwork and leadership along the way, in addition to details about the military,” Pearce explains. “By the end of ROTC, you are an Army Officer either in the Active Duty part or the National Guard part of the Army, and that’s something I’ve been looking forward to since 9/11.”

During LDAC, the Cyclone Battalion also earned the top award for leadership excellence for having the most cadets who finished at the top of the leadership class, and they won the Commissioning Excellence Award for commissioning the highest number of cadets who are in the top 20 percent of all 5,700 cadets on the national order-of-merit list.

The leadership course was held in Washington this summer, with cadets performing several drills including patrolling and situational training over a five-week period.

Derick Light
Derick Light

“Cadets are assessed on how well they react in a tactical environment,” explains Light, who studies chemical engineering. “You have to respond to a situation with a well-constructed plan, and then execute it to accomplish your mission. At the end, you are evaluated in comparison to other cadets, and that determines your military branch.”

Light adds that being an engineering student and ROTC cadet has taught him a lot about time management, with both being such a huge commitment. “One thing I didn’t expect to realize is that when I get up early to participate in physical training, I have a lot more hours in the day,” he says with a smile. “Helping the younger cadets develop into good soldiers has been rewarding. It’s unlike anything you experience in class.”

Light will practice chemical engineering after graduation and proudly serve in the Army National Guard. Pearce plans to apply his engineering lessons and skills in the Army and at some point wants to become part of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The 3rd Brigade includes Army ROTC programs at more than 40 schools in the Midwest, and the Cyclone Battalion includes 135 cadets from Iowa State, Drake University, and Grand View University in Des Moines, and Buena Vista University in Storm Lake.