The History of the ROTC
The origins of military instruction in civilian colleges dates back to 1819 when CPT Alden Partridge founded the
American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, at Norwich, Vermont. Today, it is Norwich University in Northfield,
VT. In 1862 the U.S Congress recognized the need for military training at civilian educational institutions. The Morrill
Land Grant Act was enacted to fulfill this need. This Act donated lands and money to establish colleges which would
provide practical instruction in agriculture, mechanical and military sciences.
The United States Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) as we know it today dates from the National
Defense Act of 1916. World War I prevented the full development of civilian educators and military professionals
working together. At the conclusion of World War I, the program was fully implemented on college campuses. The
success of this effort was demonstrated in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. College campuses provided quality officers to meet the rapidly expanding needs of mobilization. In 1964 the ROTC Vitalization Act improved the program by adding scholarships and expanding junior ROTC opportunities. The inclusion of women in the program in
1973 was another important milestone.
Today, Army ROTC opportunities are available across the country at almost three hundred host units, as well as
hundreds of partnership schools.
The Golden Eagle Battalion’s History
Mississippi Southern College Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was activated on April 3, 1950, as an Artillery
unit by an act of Congress. The first Professor of Military Science was LTC Harrison Finlayson. Under LTC Finlayson's leadership, enrollment in the program increased to 232 cadets by 1952. This was also the year the first class of
cadets were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants. There were 30 commissionees in the class, of which four received commissions as Regular Army Officers. Also in 1952, a Military Ball was held to honor the first commissioning class.
The ball became an annual event and is still held in honor the commissionees from each class.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the program thrived. Approximately 35 cadets were commissioned each year.
During those early years, the ROTC program received tremendous support from the university administration.
This was especially true while Dr. William McCain (Major General-retired) was president of Southern Miss from
1955 to 1975.
As in most of the country, ROTC at this institution suffered a drop in enrollment during the 1970s but continued to commission officers into the U.S. Army. In 1972, the Southern Miss ROTC Detachment gained approval to begin
teaching the Basic Course of Instruction at area junior colleges. In 1975, Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas began his 22-year
tenure as president of the university. Under his leadership, the university and the ROTC program continued to grow.
By 1977, with the addition of William Carey College into the Basic Program, there were extension centers and six
cross-enrolled institutions affiliated with the ROTC program.
In the early 1980s, the negative effect that the Vietnam War had on the military and ROTC programs across the
country began to abate. Under COL Tommy Palmertree in 1982-1983, enrollment increased to 2,053 from 1980's
enrollment of 734. In 1982-1983, the Southern Miss ROTC Department was the largest ROTC unit in the nation.
Throughout the 1980s, this Detachment commissioned an average of 42 lieutenants annually, with 60 being
commissioned in 1988. Of these 60, 11 were selected for commissioning in the Regular Army.
During the 1988-1989 school year, the Southern Miss ROTC detachment program was designated as a battalion
and the basic program was withdrawn from area junior colleges. This severely impacted the number of students
enrolled in the program and cut by over 50 percent the number of commissionees in 1990, 1991, and 1992. The
number of commissionees was also affected during this timeframe by Operation Desert Storm and curtailment of
the Early Commissioning Program (ECP). Under LTC David G. Senne, 1989-1994, the battalion successfully
repostured itself. The number of scholarship cadets increased with the added incentive of limited free room and
board scholarships provided by the university. The Battalion became known for commissioning Army Nurses and
was one of the top 25 Army ROTC nursing programs in the nation.
From 1993-1999, the Battalion successfully met its commissioning mission. An average of 20 2nd Lieutenants
were commissioned each year, with an active duty selection rate of 95 percent better.
In July 1997, the first female Professor of Military Science, LTC Sheila Varnado, took command of the battalion,
and provided excellent leadership until her selection for promotion and reassignment in July of 1999.
In the fall of 1999, the battalion moved to the George Hurst building. This marked the first change of location
since the program's inception in 1950.
In 1999, LTC Kevin Dougherty took command of the Golden Eagle Battalion as the Professor of Military Science.
LTC Dougherty provided great vision and guidance until his retirement in 2005.
Upon LTC Dougherty’s retirement, LTC Chuck Mitchell took command of the Golden Eagle Battalion bringing in
fresh ideas and new visions. LTC Mitchell retired in 2009. MAJ Joseph W. Power, Iv is the current Professor of
Military Science and is bringing a new idea of activities and recruiting to the Battalion .