Service Industry

Georgia Tech has long history of producing soldiers and statesmen

Rob Felt

“Georgia Tech’s strong relationship to the military is the central part of our history of research and education. It manifests itself above all through the service of generations of students and faculty and staff who have been in the military. The strength of our own ROTC units — Army, Navy, Air Force — is also a testimony to the generations whose service to the nation we remember.”

Kenneth Knoespel, interim dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, delivered those remarks in introducing Gen. David H. Petraeus at the Ferst Center for the Arts on Jan. 19.

The strength of those ties was reinforced in the makeup of the capacity crowd as there appeared to be as many, if not more, gray-headed veterans, invited as guests of the Col. Leslie Callahan Memorial Endowment program, as fresh-faced students. Of those students, more were in dress uniforms than T-shirts and jeans.

State and federal lawmakers also were in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, Chem 65. Petraeus singled out and applauded former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, Cls 60, whom he called “a true bipartisan supporter of our men and women in uniform.”

Petraeus’ speech, billed as an “Update from the CENTCOM Commander,” was sponsored by the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech as well as the Callahan endowment.

About halfway into the 90-minute program, a small band of protesters, reportedly members of Grandmothers for Peace (with some grandfathers), stood up from their seats, removed their coats to expose anti-war sentiments on their T-shirts and turned to face the audience. They stood silently for several minutes until they were escorted from the theater by security. Unfazed, Petraeus didn’t miss a beat.

Earlier, while those dozen or so protesters had passed out their leaflets outside, Petraeus, in an anteroom of the Ferst Center, had stood proud and posed for photos with Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC cadets.

Congress established the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the Georgia School of Technology in 1916. The first units were the Signal Corps and Coast Artillery, according to the Alumni Association’s Living History program.

Living History director Marilyn Somers said all freshmen and sophomores were required to enroll in ROTC or five hours a week of physical training conducted by military personnel. Juniors and seniors could participate in ROTC and receive $12-per-month pay.

In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Tech was chosen as one of the few technical colleges to give preparatory instruction in military aeronautics.

During peacetime, the Army & Navy Register reported, “By order of the Navy Department, Georgia School of Technology is chosen as the only school in the South and one of only six in the nation to have a Navy ROTC program on June 19, 1926.”

The Air Force ROTC program was launched at Tech at the close of World War II in 1946.

The Georgia Tech Military Affinity Group, established by the Alumni Association four years ago, pays tribute to all who have served or are serving their country.

GTMAG is open to students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends who are active or retired from all military branches and reserve units.

The group was formed in part to help with ROTC recruiting, facilitate networking and preserve military history on Tech’s campus. It now has more than 50 active members. President of GTMAG is Jack Henderson, IM 79, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and current senior director of Database Operations at the Alumni Association.

GTMAG will host a Military Appreciation Day celebration, which will bring former and current servicemen and women together, on April 28, in anticipation of the May 16 national commemoration of Armed Forces Day.

On April 29, all campus ROTC units will come together for an awards program that will include the presentation of swords and scholarships.

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