By Caroline Boschetto, news co-editor

Along with studying biochemistry, playing varsity sports and participating in Greek life, some Northeastern University (NU) students’ daily routines involve lacing up their boots and simulating military ambush attacks. These students are members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), an on-campus military training program.

Liberty Battalion – the group of cadets training from NU and 12 other Boston-area schools commissions officers into the Army branch of the U.S. military, according to NU’s department of military service. The department states that NU has hosted an Army ROTC program since 1951. Of Liberty Battalion’s 110 current cadets, 30 are female and 40 are NU students, NU alumna 2nd Lt. Maura Mathewson said.

“[ROTC] helps you really get yourself grounded in college,” NU sophomore business major Cadet Mara Tazartus said. “I know some people struggle when they come into college […but] right off the bat I had this new sense of discipline.”

According to U.S. Army website statistics, the Army ROTC program commissions over 70 percent of the second lieutenants serving in active duty, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.

Maj. Emily Ballou, who graduated from NU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, said that her ROTC experience helped her when she served in the Medical Service Corps in Afghanistan.

“ROTC was a good entry point and training ground to learn military structure[…]  and the importance of teamwork,” Ballou said. “Those things translated directly into serving on active duty.”

According to Tazartus, ROTC involves physical, academic and tactical training components. Cadets are required to attend morning workouts three times a week from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., Tazartus said, which can be a challenge to work around.

“It’s definitely a substantial amount of energy and time, but for me, it is 100 percent worth it, and it definitely doesn’t overpower my ability to be a college student,” Tazartus said.  “That’s the great thing about ROTC [compared] to a military academy.”

Cadets can receive college scholarships through the ROTC program that require students to serve a certain number of years in the military after graduating. According to Mathewson, students can either accept scholarships before beginning college or they can try the program out first.

“Anyone is welcome to participate in the ROTC program,” she said. “When I first joined the program, I didn’t know if it was something I definitely wanted to do.”

Mathewson said she received a three-year scholarship and will be required to serve for eight years. She is currently working as a recruiter at NU’s ROTC office and plans to start military flight school in November.

NU junior physical therapy major Cadet Nicki Doukas said that she enjoys the sense of community that ROTC fosters.

“We’re all here for most of the same reasons and that’s just a nice atmosphere,” Doukas said.

Doukas said she was influenced to join the ROTC program because she has family members in the military. According to Ballou, she was motivated to join the program in 2001 right after the Sept. 11 occurred. NU student Candace Williams, who was Ballou’s high school friend’s roommate, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 and was killed in the attacks.

Tazartus said that she was inspired to join the ROTC program after meeting a female mentor who was a lieutenant commander in the Navy.

“I never really thought of the military as something that was possible for me,” Tazartus said. “I just thought of what a lot of people think of, which is combat soldiers and infantry – the big tough guys.”

Doukas said she encourages others, particularly women, to join ROTC and other military programs.

“[Women] should not be afraid to join our program at all if they think that the whole Army thing is for men because that’s so not true,” she said. “I’m speaking for myself, but I’m also speaking for many others: We fit in just fine and we can keep up with the boys.”

Tazartus said her passion for ROTC keeps her on track with the program, on top of being a Resident Assistant this year and a member of a sorority.

“Sometimes it’s hard to map out your day and you just want to take a nap, but it’s all part of the experience,” Tazartus said. “I definitely wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Photo by Alex Melagrano