They defend us. But who will defend them?
The United States Army is in the process of closing Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs at 13 colleges and universities across the nation.
Three programs under fire are within the state of Tennessee, East Tennessee State, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee at Martin, the most closings of any one state.
The programs will be closed or realigned by the 2014-2015 school year.
Cadet Olivia Oliasani, an undecided sophomore, said program shutdowns are also affecting UT's corps, which is ranked among the top five programs in the nation.
"The budget cut is affecting our program by forcing the cadets at schools close to us to come into our program," Oliasani said. "Also, we were not able to do our Fall FTX (Field Training) the way we normally do, because we did not have the funding for transportation and MRE's."
As Oliasani explained, the programs being cut are under the knife due to producing too few commissioned officers each year.
"So, as it is unfortunate, it simply leaves the strongest programs left, ensuring quality in the results," Oliasani said. "Also, those cadets at those schools have the choice to integrate into our program."
Even so, Oliasani said she disagrees with cuts to ROTC programs.
"I personally feel nothing should be cut from the military," she said. "Without our military, our nation is vulnerable. With the cuts the military is facing, everything is being stretched thin."
Despite displacing ROTC students, Phillip Smith – the Recruiting and Operations officer at UT – asserted that the changes are benefiting programs nationwide.
"The changes that are occurring in ROTC are not so much budget driven, but rather they are part of a long range strategic plan to improve the program in many different ways," Smith said. "These program's cuts are shifts in demographics. They are shifting resources to expand in new areas such as Texas, California, Illinois and New York."
John McCarty, a sophomore in Spanish, said he foresees that program downsizing will have many less obvious effects on cadets.
"Less funding means less scholarships will be available for cadets, less cadets will have commission as active-duty officers and various minor changes will likely be made in terms of training and equipment availability," McCarty said. "The army is downsizing, and thus becoming more competitive for those who would join."
However, McCarty expressed his faith that UT's ROTC program will remain excellent.
"In spite of budget cuts, the battalion will continue to thrive, I think," he said. "We've got a very solid program here, and motivated cadets. I expect that we'll continue to excel as we have."