Santa Clara ROTC Alumni Memories

ROTC Memories: ROTC alums share their memories of the program.

This fall, we invited ROTC alums to submit their answers to the following questions. Click a question to see their responses.






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What is one (or more) of the memories of ROTC that stands out for you?

Basic training at Fort Lewis. The military ball at the Presidio at a time when coeds thought it was an honor to attend and I was not being called a war criminal (that came later when I returned from Viet Nam).

Joseph DiLeonardo '65

We were all artillery at that time and all went to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. During our 6-week summer program between the junior and senior years, many of us participated in the boxing tournament they had each summer. I remember I boxed in the 156-lb. division. Santa Clara did well in this competition each year. As I recall, I won my match even though I certainly was not one of the better boxers on our Santa Clara team, which included Bill Wiswall '55, a very good boxer and Dave Van Etten '55.

Curtis Cole '55

The Branch of the Army ROTC unit at Santa Clara at that time was Field Artillery. We were equipped with 105mm "pack" howitzers. In addition to the usual military drills, we were trained to control the fire of the artillery. To do this we sat at one end of a very long room with a very large table, called a sand table, at the other end on which were placed structures and terrain features. Sitting at the other end of the room, well back from the table, we used "field glasses" to view the terrain and targets so that we could issue aiming and firing instructions. In response to our orders to fire, the operators of the table (enlisted men under the table) would cause an "explosion" to occur at that location on the table. Using this technique we learned how to "bracket" a target (fire one round in front and one round behind the target so that the third round would hit the target). At summer camp at Fort Sill, Okla., we carried out field trials of the same technique. Prior to our senior year, The Air Force and the Navy attempted to recruit ROTC cadets--regardless of their present association (Army, Navy, or Air Force)--into becoming pilots. The Air Force offered to commission you as a 2nd lieutenant in the USAF Reserve if you signed up for flying training and passed all the entrance requirements. The Navy offered to commission you after you completed their flying training. I chose the Air Force and spent 20 years in it. At graduation I received my commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve while I was wearing the U.S. Army "Pinks and Greens."

William Hartung '54

Learning how to fly was the greatest excitement of my life to that point. I went on to become an aviation maintenance test pilot. I was in charge of mechanics, repairing the aircraft, and maintaining availability rates. We conducted aircraft test flights after the maintenance ... I always took the mechanics with me on that first flight! Never had a problem.

Richard Ostermann '76

1. Pershing Rifles and Scabbard and Blade activities. 2. While marching with the drill team in the S.F. St. Patrick's Day parade, one movement was to hit one's rifle butt on the ground as we marched. One member's rifle butt stuck in the streetcar track sticking straight up, and he marched on without it. At that point the drill team leader called for a reverse march and the rifle was plucked out of the track back into the hands of its previous user. I don't recall if we won an award that year!

Dave Rigney '63

As a freshman in 1968-69 ROTC was mandatory, however with the draft lottery the class shrunk to about 30 cadets, a close-knit group. Also the leadership instruction we received at the annual summer camp and during our tenure have served quite well.

George Berrettoni '72

Every Wednesday going to the football field for drill.

Richard Wood, '54, J.D. '59

I remember when my classmate, Rita Tamayo '76, was selected as the first female cadet commander in the United States. Rita had excelled as an ROTC cadet. However, in 1975, her appointment was very controversial. Her selection received national media coverage, and there was always a television news crew at drill during the first month of fall semester. Rita was the only female cadet in our senior class, and we considered her one of the guys. When Rita became our cadet boss, we gave her a lot of ribbing. Rita not only took it all in stride, she gave this friendly harassment right back at us. Rita was a distinguished military graduate and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Military Police in June 1976. Rita is no longer with us. I'm sure when we join her someday and the rest of the Bronco Battalion in the hereafter, she'll ask us what took us so long. Did we get lost on the way?

Tom Eichenberg '76

The antiwar demonstrations that we marched through on campus during drill times capped off three turbulent years in my school life. Knowing the anger against the Vietnam war was also anti-ROTC made some of us nervous on occasion, but we just completed our drills and went on with life. Surreal when I think back on it.

David Coppom '70

It is now fashionable to mentor people. Little did I know then that more than 30 years later I still consider Major Eric I. Mackintosh a mentor. Every year I post a picture of him and I on our Veterans Recognition Board at work. I do that to recognize his service. He gave me his Infantry Dress Blue shoulder boards, and I still have them. He helped me understand a leader's role.

Thomas Robinson '79

Leon Panetta '60, J.D. '63 was my platoon leader in my freshman year. The several weekend outings to Fort Ord in Monterey and the 6 weeks of summer camp at Ft. Lewis, Wash., were informative and generally enjoyable.

Robert Peters '61

Summer camp at Fort Lewis, and the preparation for the physical challenges for two weeks at Lake Tahoe with my best friends in the program is something I will never forget. Then running alongside Tommie Smith, my next-door bunk mate, he in tennis shoes and me in combat boots. Think he received some special attention? This was 1963--he won the 200 meters at the Olympics in 1968 and he and John Thomas made that famous salute!

Rick Enos '68

I had the opportunity to go through the program with a great group of men and women who became good friends. The cadre (faculty) were well-experienced individuals who prepared us well for the challenge of leadership and did so in a very educational way. I had the opportunity to learn new skills such as climbing and rappelling; had the opportunity to develop leadership skills in adverse conditions (simulated battle); had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country to undertake training courses. It was a great educational experience that only complemented my undergraduate academic education.

Michael McNellis '82

It was very "simplified" compared to today. The drilling at Buck Shaw Stadium, the very fine cadre, etc. were all good, but today it appears ROTC is more similar to the training at the military academies ... but still not as tough (my son graduated from the Air Force Academy). I think summer camp (Ft. Sill) was the wake-up call for what it was all about.

Rich Scholz '54

About the only memory is being on the parade ground 10/3/51 when Bobby Thompson hit the "Shot Heard Round the World" to win the National League pennant for the Giants. I do not remember at all how we were notified but I believe it was the first major sporting event televised coast to coast, so I imagine some fan was watching it somewhere in an ROTC office...?

Bill Brunkow '54

I remember as a freshman being taught close order drill by our leaders. But I had learned all that in high school ROTC at Campion Jesuit High School. Like a typical freshman, I smarted off a few times and was then put to work as a demonstrator.

Dan Fitzgerald '64

My memories of SCU ROTC are many and strong. In the spring of 1975, my freshman year, I was out of money and knew, barring a miracle, I would not be able to return for my sophomore year. Then one day as I passed Varsi Hall I remembered my step-uncle twice removed, who I only met once, telling me about ROTC scholarships. I joined the program so I could apply for the 3-year scholarship and in June had the interview. What I thought was going to be a short interview with a few of the Military Science officers was anything but. I walked into a room full of people including the University president, Father Terry, several deans including the soon-to-be-new president Father Rewak, and many distinguished faculty and administrators as well as the colonel and lieutenant colonel that ran the ROTC program. To say I bombed the interview would be too kind. It started with the field hem of my Class A uniform, which I had done 30 minutes prior when I realized the new uniform (which I had not worn, as we always wore fatigues to drills) was not hemmed. My innovative solution of tape, staples, and paper clips came undone as I walked into the room, and I did a face plant. Worse, the pant legs were so long I could not get them off my shoes, so I had to shuffle the remaining 10 feet to my seat at the head of the table. It took probably 30 seconds and seemed like an eternity. The interview went downhill from there. Miraculously I was offered the scholarship anyway (a story in its own right) and was able to finish an extraordinary education at SCU then enter into another. Through more divine intervention I ended up as the Aide to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School. He was wicked smart and highly innovative (if you have seen the George Clooney movie Men Who Stare at Goats you will understand some of his far-reaching thinking) and taught me so much about people and leadership. I left the Army to go on the Professional Bowlers Tour, and although my arm blew out twice, my SCU education combined with my military experience enabled me to land on my feet. Over the last 20 years I have been the director of QA for one of the three Boeing Company divisions; wrote a book on business, leadership, and life; started my own leadership company that was purchased by a U.K. firm a few years ago; and am currently working with individuals, teams, and organizations on changing the world through changing business and changing lives. And it never would have happened without an SCU education and an ROTC scholarship and all that entailed over the ensuing years.

Craig Elkins '78

The six-week summer camp at Fort Lewis, Wash., was a great experience although I might not have thought so at the time. It certainly got me in great physical shape, and the leadership training benefited me throughout not only my military service but also my civilian endeavors.

Al Girolami '61

There were many good memories as a member of Pershing Rifles, Scabbard and Blade and the varsity rifle team--we had great and demanding times. I recall the great instructors, both officer and enlisted. They set good examples. As a distinguished military graduate, I was offered a regular Army commission, which I accepted. As a career officer, that was an excellent move.

Wain Stowe '60

In 1970, my senior year of ROTC, I was appointed cadet colonel and brigade commander of the program on campus. Many memories and stories came out of that year but one particular moment stands out. It was spring of 1970 and the annual award ceremony was on the parade grounds (parking lot for Buck Shaw field). The event was attended by the media and various dignitaries on and off campus. As an aside, 1970 was a year of great turmoil on campuses throughout the United States with the Vietnam war being the source of the disturbance. On this particular day we were very concerned about antiwar protestors and their possible actions. First and foremost, we made arrangements for members of our Scabbard and Blade Drill Team to guard the U.S. flag that flew in the middle of our training facility. We hoped that the protest would be peaceful but were prepared along with outside authorities for the worst. As expected, a group of students from Berkeley were in attendance during the speeches and award presentations and did their best to heckle and verbally disrupt the proceedings. At the conclusion of the event, I gave the order for the brigade to "Pass in Review." As the cadets marched by the viewing stand, the protestors came out of the audience in mass and laid down in front of the cadets to disrupt their marching order. It was quite a site to see the discipline of the officers as they directed their troops over and around the prone antagonists. The ceremony was basically an embarrassing disaster, but I was particularly proud of my brigade--not one fight, retaliation, or accident transpired from the disruption. Time magazine documented the event that month in an article accompanied by a picture of our marching cadets dodging the protestors. Crazy times, to say the least!

David Ward '70

The camaraderie and working with the other cadets not just from SCU but also from Stanford. Best memories were from the Ranger Challenge Team both my junior and senior years. Getting up at 6 in the morning and doing PT at Leavey and going for our 2-mile run on campus. A couple of times, we sang cadence around Swig and woke everyone up. Going out to Ft. Ord and Camp Parks on our training exercises was always fun until you got a bad case of poison oak.

Steve McLaughlin '94

My 1976-year group cadet classmates went off to Ft. Lewis between junior and senior year for ROTC Advanced Camp during the summer of 1975. We returned to school as students and cadets, proud to wear our uniforms on campus. That year, we prepared and executed the training plan for the MS IIIs, the junior-year cadets. This presented an excellent opportunity for planning training, preparing operations orders and the leadership necessary to get it completed. Training included map reading, orienteering, patrolling, small-unit tactics, weapons qualification, rappelling, radio communication, as well as teaching cadets how to wear their uniforms properly, march, close order drill, salute, etc.

Mike O'Hara '76

I still vividly remember making the trek from Swig Hall out to the facilities located near the football stadium. It was not a very popular time for ROTC at other campuses but it was fine at Santa Clara. We had a physical training field where we practiced running around obstacles and a hanging ladder where the metal rungs were usually very cold, hard, and infuriatingly rotated as you grabbed them. Eventually I was able to master them. The ladder demanded that you just do it over and over until you learned the rhythm and the swing at the end that kept your momentum and allowed you to keep up your speed on the way back. Initially there were military history classes and drill practices on Wednesdays, sometimes we took truck rides up into the hills to practice basic military tactics with heavy wooden rifles, M-14, it was before the M-16 was issued to the Reserves. We ate C rations on our drills however some were so old that we spent time opening them up to remove the cigarettes, as they had been banned. The Corps of Cadets was small but a dedicated group, and we even tried to resurrect the Pershing Rifles with a small modicum of success. In our Sophomore year I was lucky to be selected for Jump School and off I went to Fort Benning, Georgia. Four weeks later I returned with my basic Jump Wings. I don't think there were any other Santa Clara cadets in my class but there were a lot of other schools there. In junior year we had our major summer camp at Fort Lewis, Wash., now called Joint Base Lewis McCord. Just getting to summer camp was an adventure in that me and my good friend Foley took off to explore on our drive up. We ended up driving to eastern Washington and spending a night in the BOQ at Fairchild AFB and then traversing Washington state to sign in to camp. At some point we had a long weekend and did a day trip up to Vancouver. Even thought it was summer the instructors managed to find the coldest river to conduct a night river crossing. In retrospect it began to prepare me for the cold of Ranger School in January 1976 in the Dahlonega Mountains during the mountain phase. When camp ended I was fortunate to find myself ranked the best cadet, which earned me an ROTC Aviation Scholarship that paid for me to earn my private pilot's license during my senior year at Santa Clara. I flew out of San Jose airport, which was a rather mild place in those days. Shortly after my solo ride I remember my parents coming for a visit and taking my mother for a ride around the traffic pattern. I could not take my father, as he was suffering from a heart condition. It was not until later in my military career that I realized how inexperienced I was and what a risk my mother had taken.

Chris Parker '75

In my Junior year I signed up to go to flight school after joining the service. In my senior year I was given flight lessons at a local airport. We flew what in those days was known as an "airnocker". A fabric covered single engine plane. The approach to the runway was over a golf course and one day while shooting "touch and goes" a golf ball went thru the tail section of my plane. Better than an enemy bullet.

L. DeMartini '58

On campus memories have faded. It was my first real contact with the military and the patriotic feelings it engendered. Memories of summer camp at Ft Gordon, GA, are a little more vivid, living in a barrack and going through what amounted to basic training.

David T Van Etten '55

Winter 2012

See all articles from this issue


My fight, my faith

As secretary of defense in an age of budget austerity, Leon Panetta '60, J.D. '63 has to make sure the Pentagon doesn't break the bank and that the nation doesn't break faith with the men and women who serve.

Bronco Battalion

What does it mean for a Jesuit university to be home to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps? Seventy-five years after ROTC came to Santa Clara—and 150 years after officers were first trained on campus—a few answers are clear.

Mission Matters

Going global

A $2 million grant creates a year-long fellowship program—with students taking part in a global network of socially conscious businesses.

Bribes, bombs, and outright lies

Legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow comes to campus—and shows that ethical issues raised in the Trial of the Century remain as vexing today as they did when spittoons lined the courthouse floor.

Alumni Arts

Let me lay it on you

Hot Tuna is back with their first studio recording in 20 years.