News & Events

Army ROTC students gain competitive edge before launching military careers

April 18, 2022

Senior cadets in Liberty University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) are held to high performance standards in their training and in the classroom, setting them up for success in their chosen branches of military service after Commencement.

“It’s really on the cadets, specifically that senior class, to be the most professional students, the best academic students, the most physically fit students,” Sgt. First Class Juan Hernandez said. “We expect that of Liberty students in general, to set themselves apart from other universities and other students, and we expect that even more from our cadets — to really show that they’re buying into those standards and carrying that legacy and living that culture out.”

Seniors in Liberty’s Eagle Battalion have consistently earned high Order of Merit List (OML) rankings, based on their academic standing, leadership within the ROTC unit, and performances at Cadet Summer Training (CST) Advanced Camp, putting them at an advantage over cadets from other colleges and universities when it comes time be commissioned as officers. The senior cadets learned their OML rankings and found out if they were selected for active duty in November. On Dec. 1, they were informed of their designated branch — the higher their OML ranking, the better their chance of earning their choice of military placement after graduation.

“As soon as our cadets graduate this coming May, they’ll all be commissioned Army officers,” Hernandez said, noting that 99 percent of those competing for the active-duty component received it. “We have a variety — from aviators to infantry to military intelligence officers and logistics. All of our cadets got either their first or second choice.”

Senior cadet Hayden Handel, a double major in international relations-strategic intelligence and interdisciplinary studies with a focus on government and languages, ranked 29th on the OML out of approximately 3,500 Army ROTC cadets nationwide. He will be commissioned along with 23 fellow cadets at Liberty’s Army ROTC commissioning ceremony on May 4.

Handel received his first choice and will be assigned as a second lieutenant aviation officer to Fort Rucker (Ala.) for his Basic Officer Leader Course. He will serve an additional 10 years in the U.S. Army after completing his flight school training to become a helicopter pilot. Handel excelled in a variety of areas at Liberty. He studied Russian and participated in Project Global Officer through an Army ROTC scholarship in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He played intramural sports and was on Club Sports crew and triathlon teams. He also volunteered through ROTC at the National Center for Healthy Veterans at Valor Farm in nearby Altavista and worked for the Flames Club during weekend football and basketball home games.

Handel said Liberty’s Army ROTC program brings out the best in each cadet and challenges them to rise up the ranks while developing spiritual disciplines.

“(We) push each other and motivate each other to do well because a rising tide brings up all the ships,” Handel said. “So you set the standard for your class and motivate everyone to get up to that level and be like, ‘Hey, we’re all going to meet the standard, and not only meet it but exceed it,’ and that’s why this program is so successful. There’s a high standard within it, which a lot of other schools don’t have.”  

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