Southern University's ROTC tops among HBCUs in the 6th Brigade


It's all good news from Southern University's Army ROTC program.


The SU AROTC is now top ranked among Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the AROTC's 6th Brigade, topping units at schools including Grambling State, Florida A&M and Jackson State universities.


And, the Southern unit has jumped 17 spots in the overall rankings, rising from the bottom of all 39 schools in 2012-2013 in the 6th Brigade to 22nd place in just one year. The announcements were made in late September from the headquarters of the 6th Brigade District in Savannah, Ga.


The 6th Brigade District includes schools in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The other HBCU schools in the 6th Brigade include Tuskegee University, Alcorn State University and Alabama State University


MSG Ramon Martinez, one of the new cadres (leader) responsible for moving the program forward simply, said the new leaders "came in and did our job."


"The biggest thing for me was we are not going to be associated with last place. It is unacceptable. It was a sense of pride we were instilling in the cadets. We are better than this and can do better," said Martinez.


LTC Brian Bissonnette, who joined Southern's program in the summer, says the new cadres "put in a lot of effort to make sure these kids were physically fit because that is a big portion."


Last year Southern welcomed new cadres to the program: SFC Spencer Lewis, SFC Les Miller, CPT Allarick Hawkins, and MGS Ramon Martinez. Also on staff is: Lionel Hamilton, logistical tech; Christine Walker, human resources; and Mia Douglas, recruitment officer.


Bissonnette said that with a bigger cadre they were able to have the proper ratio of cadres to cadets and they were able to "train for land navigation portions and the tactical piece properly."


ROTC programs are ranked every year based on the overall performances of the junior class cadets during their summer Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) held in Fort Lewis, Wash. The tests include physical training, land navigation, confidence training, field leader's reaction courses, maneuver training and more.


LDAC is a 29-day course that starts with individual training and leads to collective training, building from simple to complex tasks. This building-block approach permits integration of previously learned skills into follow-on training. This logical, common sense training sequence is maintained for each training cycle, according to LDAC information.


"The biggest problem over the last few years involved the cadets going to LDAC and they didn't have a firm grasp of land navigation and tactics.  The cadres (this year) made sure they (cadets) understood and practiced what they needed to go to LDAC," said Bissonnette.


At LDAC, Southern is one of 273 schools participating at the assessment. The large participation gives SU cadets a chance to interact with cadets from larger schools.


Bissonnette says they prepare their cadets by instilling confidence in them that "they are not going to be intimidated by the larger schools. We still have knowledge and skills to be successful."


With the new ranking and new leadership for the Army ROTC program at Southern, Bissonnette and Martinez agree that they have seen a change in the cadets.


There was a big motivational shift and more unified connection among the old and new cadets in the program, said Bissonnette and Martinez.


Bissonnette notes that with Col. Brent E. Barnes, commander of the 6th Brigade, providing Southern's program with more resources and scholarships, the SU AROTC program was able to make a huge leap in progress.


SU's Army ROTC hopes that with the jump in ranking, the number of cadets in the program will continue to rise and that the SU unit, once a prestigious program, will return to the days of glory that produced nine generals in the United States Army. 


Martinez says making Southern ROTC number one has always been number one on their agenda. "We have 22 more spots to go," said Martinez.



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