The students joining the local ROTC program as members of the area’s Pony Express Battalion for this semester alone is larger
than the battalion’s total number of cadets enrolled back in 2007—a 450 percent growth in numbers in two years. Made up of students from Missouri Western, as well as 8 other area colleges and universities, the battalion welcomed 22 cadets into the fold during their contracting ceremony held Thursday afternoon, September 3rd, at the Kemper Recital Hall in Leah Spratt Hall.
The battalion was made up of only 13 total cadets when its present commander, Lt. Col. Marcus Majure, started his
career at Missouri Western two years ago. Majure says one contributing factor to the increase is a newly added incentive bonus of $5,000, which the ROTC started offering last year.
“Other than that, they were getting around $800 or $900 for going. But now, they get that $800 to $900 dollars, plus a $5,000 bonus check for going. So it’s not bad. They get the check, and they go to school for free,” Majure said. He said the cadets are the best recruitment agents though, and he always encourages interested students to just ask the person wearing fatigues that they see in class or pass in the hallways.
One of those people now wearing fatigues is Cadet Chris Grady of Lansing, Kan. He’s one of the newly contracted cadets, and a freshman criminal justice major at Missouri Western. He said he had always considered military service after high school.
“Lt. Col. Majure came and spoke to me, and said that ROTC would be a better route to start a career in the Army,” Grady said. Before he started this semester, he said he had wondered if it would be difficult juggling being a student and cadet.
“For PT, we’re only required to do three hours a week, at 6:00 in the morning. But since I’m on the Ranger Challenge Team, it’s every day. I thought I was going to be swamped, but it’s really not as bad as I’d thought,” Grady said. He said his goal is to eventually serve in the infantry or military police.
Not all contracting cadets are new to military life. Cadet Aaron Craig is part of the Simultaneous Membership Program, where National Guard and Army Reservists are also enrolled in the ROTC. Craig joined the National Guard at age 31. The St. Joseph native and sophomore business management major is the son of a veteran and the grandson of a local WWII vet that saw combat in North Africa and Sicily. Craig’s father and grandfather both went through ROTC.
“I served with the 129th Field Battalion of Maryville and was deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, and when I came back from that, I knew I wanted to follow in my dad and my grandfather’s footsteps,” Craig said. He said he plans on making the military his career. Other Missouri Western students contracting as cadets that afternoon included Brittany Bauman, Thomas Hutton, Eduardo Silva, Cierra Why, Cody Hatheway and William Moore II.