WMU ROTC faces recruitment troubles during COVID-19

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As universities work to navigate what this school year will look like, officials with the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Western Michigan University want students to know they can still get involved.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance is down, and meetings are all virtual. Recruiters want to make sure their program isn’t forgotten.

“That face-to-face touch, that actual personal connection is what we’re missing right now,” said Billy Clayton, the scholarships and recruitment officer for the WMU Army ROTC. “How do we get the message out there that we still exist? Or how do we get the message out there that we have all these virtual opportunities to come and talk to us? That was the biggest struggle.”

Clayton says getting in touch with potential students has been a challenge.

“Right now, one of the main ways of contacting people is email,” said Clayton. “So now you have a student getting nothing but thousands of emails from all these universities trying to get their attention and it’s a little overwhelming.”

During a time when racial justice is at the forefront of many people’s minds, Clayton wants to make sure they’re bringing in students from all walks of life.

“Right now, we need more Black, brown, yellow individuals to come forward into the ROTC battalion to actually try to go for that officer rank, so we can have a more diverse officer corps,” said Clayton.

In fall 2018, the program had a total of 163 cadets. Fifty-two of them were female, 70 percent were white, 14 percent Hispanic and only four percent Black and four percent Asian.

“We are the individuals that protect everybody else’s opportunities to be able to make those choices, and we need those young men and women to kind of make that decision to do something bigger than themselves, and try to do something for the greater cause and help us to protect our freedoms,” said Clayton.

Clayton wants potential recruits to know that they can still get involved even during the pandemic, and if they have questions he’s there to help.

“It’s a new challenge, but that’s the reason why we’re here,” said Clayton. “If we’re not able to adapt and overcome the challenges, then why does the military exist? That’s our whole mission.”

Clayton also says you can do the ROTC program at any university your freshman and sophomore year and have no commitment to the military. He says they usually commission 25 students to be Army officers their senior year.

More information about the Army ROTC program at Western Michigan University can be found online