Villanovans in Uniform

Megan Hansler

The prestige of Villanova’s academics is often awarded to the challenging business, science and humanities educations it offers, and with good reason. 

However, it is easy to overlook another one of the University’s equally rigorous programs: NROTC.   Not only does this program emphasize a commitment to academic excellence, NROTC incorporates an education in leadership and teamwork, which serve as invaluable resources for its students.

The University’s prestigious NROTC program is characterized by the great success of its alumni. Since it began in 1946, the Villanova NROTC program has produced 22 admirals and generals in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Villanova NROTC attributes this success to the program’s emphasis on leadership, honor and commitment. The program seeks to develop students mentally, morally and physically in preparation for their professions as naval officers.

The Naval ROTC program includes both Navy and Marine options. NROTC students who pursue the Navy option take slightly different classes from the Marine students and continue on to a more specific area, such as submarine training, after graduation. NROTC students are free to major in whatever area they would like, although engineering typically is recommended. There is also a Navy nurse program, which is an opportunity for nursing majors who are interested in pursuing a unique experience.

“Navy nurses make a great impact not just serving military members and their families but also on the world at large, with service like tsunami relief,” freshman NROTC student Beth Toolan says of why she chose the program.

Students can either apply to the NROTC program in high school and earn a scholarship to attend Villanova or can apply after arriving at Villanova and seek a scholarship later. In fact, there are many NROTC students who didn’t intend to join the naval program until after they were accepted to the University.

Lauren Honeycutt, a freshman NROTC student, decided to join the Navy nurse program only a few weeks before classes started when she met a Navy nurse who had graduated from Villanova. The travel opportunities and training experience appealed to Honeycutt and attract many other Villanova students to the NROTC program.

Another advantage to the NROTC program is that students graduate as either Navy ensigns or Marine Corps second lieutenants, just as they would if they graduated from the United States Naval Academy.

“People often tell me that Naval Academy graduates are the best officers, and that Villanova Navy graduates are a close second,” Tom Clancey says. “I don’t think so. I think Villanova grads are better. Academy grads have a great education. But Villanova grads have it all: character, leadership skills, social skills, the ability to interact with others and a great education.”

One common question from students considering the NROTC program is the time commitment required with additional naval classes and physical training. When asked about this commitment, Lieutenant Brian Gelb, a member of the NROTC staff, says that NROTC students face many of the same challenges that other college students face, such as time management.

Senior NROTC student Jonathan Perkins agrees, saying, “Being part of the Villanova NROTC unit is not as much of a time commitment as many would expect.”

For Perkins, the greatest challenge he has faced as an NROTC student has been his involvement with the Battalion staff. The Battalion’s activities are run entirely by NROTC students, and planning these activities can be an enormous responsibility.

“I have never had a greater leadership experience than I did this semester as the Battalion Commanding Officer, and I would not trade it for anything,” Perkins says.

This seems to be the sentiment of most of the NROTC students. Although some sacrifices must be made, they find these sacrifices insignificant compared to the many rewards they gain through their experience in NROTC.

“We are certainly not your typical student in terms of our life goals, at least for the first five years out of college, but most people would find we’re no different,” Perkins says.

For freshmen, the NROTC experience begins with an orientation program called India Company. All incoming NROTC students go through this orientation program together and at the end are sworn in as “midshipmen.”

“[The India Company] builds leadership, character and friendships,” says Megan Miller, a freshman who was a part of the India Company this fall.

Even from the beginning, NROTC students become close with each other. Toolan believes that her friend, Louis Gualiardo, another NROTC student, described NROTC best when he said, “It’s like a fraternity, except with girls.”

Most Naval ROTC students would agree with Gualiardo that the group is almost like a family.

In addition to this unity, the NROTC program emphasizes the importance of academics, and students are expected to excel in their classes. Another expectation is that the NROTC students report for physical training on Tuesday mornings from 6:30 to 7:15. Physical training is also required several other mornings per week depending on the physical ability of the individual.

On Tuesdays, the NROTC students also attend a two-hour Leadership Lab in the afternoon, which can include guest speakers, drill practice, general military training and a variety of other activities meant to develop the students’ talents and group dynamics. For the most part, these classes and activities take place in Commodore John Barry Hall, the headquarters of the NROTC program. Mendel Field is the other home of the NROTC program, as evidenced by the many drills, exercises and naval events often seen commencing on this field.

Like any true Villanovan, these students reach incredible standards that set them apart and contribute greatly to the University’s success. 

“Villanova is a service-oriented community, and I think all ROTC students exemplify that ideal to the highest standard,” Honeycutt says. 

The NROTC program’s focus on service and commitment is reflected throughout the entire student body in the commitment that all students have to helping others. All students carry these Villanova values with them, whether their future takes them to the Navy, the Marines or anywhere else.