Memories of ROTC: A Big Waste of Time

I remember being a college kid once and also recall that much of the time I spent in the University of Santo Tomas was a big waste of time. One of the largest contributors to time wastage was a Sunday requirement called ROTC.

ROTC, short for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, was a mandatory course when I was enrolled in the University. This was around 1997 so much has changed since then (especially after the Mark Welson Chua murder case). For two years, I had to wake up early Sunday mornings to get dressed in shabby military garb and run to USTs field for “training” regarding military discipline. What I did find out was it only took what could have been fruitful years of my life.

All 1st and 2nd year male students of the University were required to attend approximately 12 Sundays per academic semester. A relatively select few become involved in special units while the rest of us were treated like crap. And like crap, all that we learned was to stand up and sit down under the heat of the sun or the occasional drizzle of rain. For 12 Sundays a semester, our routine was to stand up, sit down, march around a little bit, buy crappy food, and (if we’re lucky, that is) be taught some ceremonial gun wielding. Combat skills learned: ZERO. Some military training huh? This is the “Bahala Na” (let chance take over), “Pwede Na” (that’ll do) mediocrity cultural  mentality at work.

ROTC’s intention was to supplement the military with pawns in case the Philippines was involved in a major war. It has that high and mighty aspiration that given the chance, you’ll be called out to fight for your country, be a hero and all that crap that politicians want you to believe. But what good does standing and sitting all day do to train good soldiers? We occasionally had calisthenic exercises for that matter but in my experience, I had not learned to handle a rifle in a combat situation during the time I spent at the ROTC. I have years of experience training in martial arts so I definitely know what it takes to train a warrior; ROTC in the Philippines wouldn’t compare to that. I have relatives serving in the Philippine Navy, and based on their stories about real military training, the kind of thing they hand out in ROTC is a big load of bull. In a real wartime situation, those drafted from the ROTC would be nothing more than mere human shields. This is what taking MS11 and MS12 (the subject code for Military Science) has taught me. Now you tell me if that isn’t a waste of time.

Fast forward to 1998 and I enrolled for MS21 and MS22. This time, I had the option of going for alternative units. Since I couldn’t get a slot to go for a unit called CWS, who were required to provide civil service for only 6 Sundays a semester, I was eventually placed in LES (Law Enforcement Service). This unit aims to teach students some things regarding being in law enforcement in the Philippines. Like the last year, I learned nothing.

So, what did we actually do in LES? Sit and lie down on the asphalt, have an energy drink, maybe a cup of taho (it’s watery silken tofu with caramel and tapioca pearls) and smoke our lungs out to oblivion. Did learn any facet of police work. Nuh uh! I did this for 24 Sundays of that year, but because the ROTC screwed up my records for MS22, I didn’t get a passing mark. So much for attendance.

Not passing MS22 gave me something to worry about during my later years in college as I would not be able to graduate without it. It’s a good thing though that when I was about to graduate, the policy was changed to what’s called the National Service Training Program (NSTP) which only required a year to complete. As a result of that policy revision, since I was “officially” able to complete more than a year’s equivalent of NSTP, I no longer had to pursue finishing MS22. My cousin wasn’t so lucky though as he had to complete his program in Fort Bonifacio prior to the implementation of NSTP.

So now that I’m a parent, I would make sure that my son, when he approaches that age, would not have to waste his time on such an utterly useless program. Might as well he go the CWS route to complete his requirements, but that would be in the next 8 years or so. A lot of things might change and so I’ll have to wait and see. Again, the bottom line is that in my experience, ROTC is a waste of time.

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