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First ROTC officers to go into service by month's end


The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, implemented since 1997, is to see the first batch of eight cadets commissioned on Saturday together with graduates from military academies.

The eight would-be officers will go into service in the army by the end of this month, becoming the first to serve as ROTC officers in Taiwan's military history, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced yesterday.

The ROTC is an experimental program based on a US system with the same name.

It is expected to widen the sources of enlistees in the armed forces.

The eight ROTC cadets will be commissioned on Saturday together with hundreds of graduates from different military academies in a joint commissioning and graduation ceremony scheduled to be presided over by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The ceremony is to take place at the Taipei-based Political Warfare College.

The eight ROTC cadets, from different universities around the island, are now taking political education courses at the Political Warfare College, which is a must for all enlistees. They initially had six other fellow trainees, but these six dropped out of the program within one year of registering. They are to serve for five years in the army, which is the required term of service in exchange for the scholarships and allowances they receive from the military from sophomore to senior years.

They may opt to extend their service term after the five years are up, but they will not be given any guarantee about how many more years they can stay in the service because higher-ranked positions are becoming fewer due to the Ching Shih personnel streamline project, a defense official said.

"Although the ROTC program had only 14 accepted applicants in its first year [1997], it has been attracting more and more college students over the past three years," Colonel Tang Hsiang-yun (唐祥雲), deputy director of the personnel department of the army general headquarters, said.

"Accepted applicants in the second year rose slightly higher to 19 in total. The figure jumped to 83 last year. This year sees a further growth to 115 in all. We plan to accept a total of 120 next year," Tang said.

Besides the financial subsidies given to the program participants during their college years, Tang said, they are also granted the flexibility to pursue a higher degree while in service.

"They may apply for graduate schools both at home and abroad. If they are accepted, they may start their post-graduate study after serving one year in the army," Tang said.

"Because of the growing popularity of the ROTC program among college students, the air force and navy are now considering following in the army's footsteps to try and recruit new blood," he said.

In addition, the army also plans to widen operational choices for the ROTC cadets, who are now only offered places in the most physically-demanding branches of the army, such as infantry and artillery.

"This year, we offer an extra operational choice for the ROTC cadets -- communications," Tang said.

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