“Duty, honor, country,” cadet Melissa Knox said. “For Liberty, though, we add a fourth focus — our faith.”
Without hesitation this was Knox’s response to the question, “What is the basic principle of the Army ROTC program?”
According to Knox, the most common misconception about soldiers is that they are just trained and paid killers. With the media reporting less-than-flattering stories about soldiers, small non-military-based towns such as Lynchburg tend to get the wrong impression, Knox said.
“A lot people think we just want to kill, kill, kill,” Knox said. “But I think if people really got to know why joined or what we are training to do in Army ROTC, they would see we are not out to slaughter. We really are trying to protect our country and our people.”
Liberty’s Reserve Officer’s Training Corps’s main webpage states that ROTC’s main focus is to develop confident, competent and adaptive leaders.
“Everyone out there (in the program) has a heart to serve,” Knox said. “We don’t expect that everyone who joins is a natural born leader. That’s the great thing about ROTC, you are always learning throughout your time with the program.”
Private Caleb Conner, a sophomore, said he joined for the physical training but stayed for the camaraderie. Conner was also influenced by his mentor, who participated in Army ROTC at the University of Florida during the Vietnam War.
“I enjoy the fact that there is a sense of close friendship and loyalty to each other,” Conner said of his fellow cadets. “We know that we have each other’s backs.”
For cadet Timothy Hepburn, being surrounded by like-minded peers while still maintaining a Christian lifestyle was vital. Hepburn finished his basic training this summer at Fort Benning, Ga. According to Hepburn, he was simply heartbroken over his peers’ choices each day while in basic.
“Since enlisting in the Army National Guard, I make decisions and try to be a leader everywhere I go,” Hepburn said. “It’s a tough military for Christians to be in, but just think about how tough it must have been to be a Christian and in Rome back in biblical times.”
In order to combat the misunderstood reputation of soldiers, Liberty’s Eagle Battalion plans to become more involved community activities, according to Knox. Being present in uniform, ready to graciously answer any questions a person may have is the easiest way to ease nerves, Knox said.
“Our program at Liberty strongly emphasizes the importance of having faith in Christ,” Knox said. “We need to show our community that. They need to see the hard work and energy our cadets are putting forth to not only protect our country, but to also be witnesses to their peers.”
According to Knox, eight of the estimated 120 cadets at Liberty participated in the Lynchburg community fundraiser Run For Their Lives last Saturday, Oct. 16. Cadets in full uniform marched the 5k route to help Freedom 4/24 raise awareness for the need to end human trafficking. This was one of the many events the program has participated in this year already and there will be much more, according to Knox.
The daily life of a cadet student is not easy, Conner mentioned when describing his daily routine.
According to Knox, all cadets have mandatory physical training that starts at exactly 5:50 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are two-hour field training labs. Even a few weekends are dedicated to specialized field training and competitions against other ROTC programs.
All cadets are required to attend specified military leadership training classes led by cadres and higher ranked officers along with their other classes, according to Liberty’s ROTC webpage.
“As senior, I am so proud of all the hard work and energy these young college students are putting forth,” Knox said. “I mean think about it, (many of) these are freshman, fresh from high school. All they want to do is to be trained to be the best soldier they can be.”
Living up to Dr. Falwell’s challenge, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better,” Liberty’s Army ROTC program has been topping the charts. As reported on Liberty’s home page, the country’s current top ranked Army ROTC nursing cadet is Petra Gerber, a Liberty senior.
According to Liberty’s ROTC homepage, the program aims to not only train leaders, but more specifically future military leaders. According to Conner, that great sense of tradition has been weighing on him recently. As a result, Conner enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard this past month.
Conner plans to pursue a career in the armed services after graduation. He plans to get his commission in military police or military intelligence. Hepburn is already enlisted in the US Army National Guard and is pursuing a career as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army National Guard Infantry.
For more information on Liberty’s ROTC program visit www.liberty.edu/rotc, or visit the facebook page “Liberty University Army ROTC (Eagle Battalion).”