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Cal Owings, Published November 06 2013

NDSU’s ROTC program gets a second chance

FARGO – The U.S. Army is reversing its decision to close the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at North Dakota State Uni-versity, according to an announcement Wednesday.

A month ago, members of the NDSU ROTC program, which includes students from Minnesota State Uni-versity Moorhead and Concordia College, were notified the Army planned to close the program along with 12 others across the nation at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Instead, the “Bison Bat-talion” will have two years to prove it’s a healthy, viable ROTC program.

Army Lt. Col. Ted Preister, who runs the NDSU ROTC program, said they’re on the right track to keep it open after the two-year probation.

“The health of our pro-gram now is dramatically better than the period they used the data from to make the (closure) determina-tion,” Preister said.

About 72 cadets are en-rolled through all three schools. He said the pro-gram has grown in the past two and half years and is “on the cusp” of being a strong program.

When they received the closure notice, he said “we weren’t going to have a chance to bring that to fruition.”

Preister, who was notified of the decision by his regional director Wednes-day afternoon, said details of the probationary period requirements were not immediately clear. Some other programs initially included in the closures nationwide were also given a second chance.

An outpouring of public support for NDSU’s pro-gram may have affected the Army’s decision to reverse the closure.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer wrote letters to Army Secretary John McHugh urging him to reconsider the closures.

“It is my hope that dur-ing this postponement, we can continue to prove to the Army how worthy of a program we have at NDSU,” Heitkamp said in a release.

Preister said he would continue to produce high-quality lieutenants hoped to leverage community support to grow the pro-gram even more.

“I think we’ll come out of this probationary period stronger than before,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599