Four years ago, eight students at Boise State began their journey as Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets: Courtney Corcoran, Levi Holt, Ryan Lindsey, Sarah Spencer, Clint Minton, Chad Rippetue, Heather Hammond and Tate Newall.

Along with their other commitments, these students participated in conditioning every morning at 7 a.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they wore uniforms out of tradition. Every day, a group of cadets gathered in the library to fulfill their weekly required hours of study.

By their senior year, these students were running the show, creating operations orders and teaching their fellow ROTC cadets how to lead.

On May 17, 2014, these students completed their academic journey and more, graduating from Boise State and becoming commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

To the ROTC graduates, this means stepping off the bus after their officer training and being fully prepared to command a platoon consisting of three to four squads, totaling 16 to 40 soldiers.

“Their willingness to make any sacrifice, to leave their families and friends and bear any burden is a reflection of the deep-seeded patriotism that generations before them displayed,” said Brig. Gen. John Goodale, the assistant adjutant general of the Idaho Army National Guard.

The students will first go to a basic officer leadership course to receive additional training in their field before being assigned to their first permanent duty station.

Of the eight graduates, four received active duty. Second Lt. Corcoran will be stationed for training at Fort Lee, Virginia, in the Ordnance Corps; 2nd Lt. Holt is assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia Infantry Corps; 2nd Lt. Lindsey will go to Fort Lenard Wood, Missouri as part of the Chemical Corps; and 2nd Lt. Spencer will join the Nurse Corps in Sam Houston, Texas.

“I came here to wrestle, I didn’t come here to join the army,” Holt said. “It’s amazing how I combined those two and really made something special.”

In addition, three of the graduating second lieutenants were assigned to the Army Reserve, in which they will serve part time after their initial officer training. Second Lt. Minton will join the Corps of Engineers in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; 2nd Lt. Rippetue will go to Fort Gordon, Georgia as part of the Signal Corps, and 2nd Lt. Hammond will become a quarter master at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Second Lt. Newall is the only graduate commissioned that will be joining the National Guard. His first duty station for training will be Fort Lee, Virginia. He will be accompanying Corcoran as part of the Ordnance Corps.

As the United States has scaled down the size of its military, the standards for ROTC students have increased. Just four years ago the average GPA of those being assessed for active duty was 3.5. Today, it’s 3.75. In their junior year cadets are evaluated based on a variety of skills. However, a high GPA is critical for each cadet to be competitive and to have a say in choosing their future job.

“They’re not just competing with each other, but kids from programs all across the country,” said Ryan Hansen, enrollment officer at Boise State.

According to Hansen, more students are becoming familiar with the military and the benefits it provides, creating an increased interest in joining. At the same time, fewer full-time positions are being offered, making getting into the military all the more competitive.

“We focus on producing good second lieutenants,” Hansen said. “They’re responsible for making decisions that may affect other people’s lives—their families’ lives. This is something our program takes very seriously.”

A big misconception about ROTC is that it is required for students to join the military upon entry. This is not true; students are welcome to attend classes without being a part of the program. The option to sign a contract is usually given within the first couple years. However, the final decision can be put off until a student’s junior year.

“You can write your own ticket in ROTC,” Hansen said. “You can do what you want to do.”