Part of going to college is getting to experience new things. Students at Lehigh do cutting-edge research alongside professors, spend semesters studying abroad and cheer for Lehigh against Lafayette in the nation’s most-played football rivalry.
And some students even get to spend a fall weekend learning how to fire an anti-tank rocket launcher.
That privilege is reserved for cadets in Lehigh’s Army ROTC program, which is, of course, about a lot more than just firing weapons. The ROTC gives students the basic military skills and leadership foundation that they’ll need to succeed as officers in the U.S. Army.
The ROTC attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and majors, like Matthew Yosua ’12. Yosua, who grew up in Collegeville, Pa., chose Lehigh in part because of its size and academic reputation and in part because of the quality of its ROTC program.
“It’s hard to know what you’re signing up for at 18, but I wanted something a little different from your typical college experience,” he explains. “I wanted the leadership experience and opportunities that only the Army ROTC offers. I want to serve my country.”
Yosua is majoring in chemistry with a concentration in pharmaceutical chemistry.
“I find the subject matter interesting and I like the labs, especially the later ones where you do most of the work on your own,” he says. “It’s different from sitting in a classroom.”
Yosua’s time at Lehigh has indeed been different from that of many of his fellow students. Instead of spending his summers in internships, he has gone to airborne school and combat diver school, and he participated in field weapons training exercises where he had got to shoot that rocket launcher.
He also attended the Leadership Development Assessment Course, which takes place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. During the event, which is also known as Operation Warrior Forge, cadets are tested on individual and group tasks and undergo a mock deployment to a foreign country.
Initially, Yosua thought he’d serve in the Army medical corps. Now, while he still plans to go to medical or pharmacy school eventually, he’s looking forward to serving in an infantry division on active duty after graduation.
“College would have been a completely different experience without the ROTC,” he says. “It made me part of something. You give up some of your weekends and your mornings, but it makes you a better person. I wouldn’t be the leader I am today without it.”