Declaring “we will not yield and we will not go quietly into the night,” Gov. Phil Bryant vowed to lead the fight against the U.S. Army’s recommendation to close the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at The University of Southern Mississippi.
Bryant made the remarks Friday during a news conference on the Hattiesburg campus outside of Southern Hall, where the university’s Army ROTC headquarters are located. He was joined by Southern Miss President Rodney D. Bennett and other dignitaries, including retired Gen. Buford Blount, a graduate of the program who led U.S. forces in toppling the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
“We won’t accept this,” said Bryant, who has reached out to the state’s congressional delegation and others in the military community for assistance in maintaining the program. ‘We’ll continue to work through this at every opportunity.”
The Southern Miss ROTC program is one of 13 at universities across the country that the U.S. Army has targeted for closure as part of a restructuring that would move funding to programs at other schools.
Southern Miss currently has 87 cadets participating in the ROTC program which dates back to 1950. Of that total, five are scheduled to be commissioned as lieutenants in December with another 12 projected for commission next May.
Bryant and Bennett both said the program at Southern Miss has many graduates in its 60-plus-year history who have gone on to have stellar military careers, such as Blount, as well as success in civilian life. “As president, I intend to do all I can to see that this program continues,” Bennett said.
Bryant urged those attending the news conference to contact their federal representatives, including President Obama by e-mail at www.whitehouse.gov in support of keeping the Army ROTC program at Southern Miss.
“Simply ask the president, who will ultimately make this decision, to recognize the greatness of our cadets and their role in defending freedom around the world,” Bryant said.
For information about Army ROTC at Southern Miss, online visit http://www.usm.edu/army-rotc.