Despite changes like social distancing, physical training being held exclusively outside and the way sit-ups are performed, the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is continuing to operate.
Aaron Cloutier, recruiting operations officer for Army ROTC, said the coronavirus pandemic has affected ROTC just as it has any organization on campus. Cloutier said social distancing is required in classes and the amount of students in a classroom per class has decreased compared to previous years.
“We have the additional dynamic of that we do physical fitness and we don’t belong to the athletic departments,” Cloutier said. “We have to kind of make that work in the best ways we can.”
Mark Lakamp, professor of naval science and commanding officer for Navy ROTC, said Navy ROTC is following the same precautions as the university. Navy and Army ROTC are socially distant inside and outside, wearing masks and creating a less dense classroom environment, according to Cloutier and Lakamp.
Cloutier said they would meet for physical fitness training in the Pershing Military and Naval Science Building, but their meeting place has moved to Mabel Lee Fields because it can hold about 80 students and the old building is not well ventilated.
In Army ROTC, if anyone is feeling ill, they have to stay home and are required to get an on-campus COVID-19 test, according to Cloutier. If the test is negative, the individual will stay home until they are no longer feeling ill, and if the test comes back positive, they are required to wait until they test negative and quarantine for 14 days beyond the test, according to Cloutier.
Cloutier said Army ROTC has a few students who are in self-quarantine right now, some from the fraternities and sororities across campus. One staff member is home as a preventative measure, but they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, according to Cloutier.
“It’s about mitigating those risks as much as we can, even if it’s just a common cold,” Cloutier said.
Mark Peer, professor of military science, said there are not currently any additional plans in place if UNL goes completely virtual again, but he would likely request to have some exceptions to the policy because it is very difficult to train some of the mandatory requirements online.
Due to the cadets who have been exposed and are in self-quarantine, every class has virtual options, according to Peer. Peer said all classes have Zoom capability and they are utilizing Canvas for all assignments.
During physical training runs, Army ROTC groups runners by ability, skill and endurance, according to Cloutier.
Also, Army and Navy ROTC changed how students do sit-ups. Army and Navy ROTC are now using a log or sandbags to hold the student’s feet down when they do sit-ups instead of another student, according to Cloutier and Lakamp.
Lakamp said everyone comes to physical training at the same time and place, but students break up into smaller groups and rotate around different areas or events, so they can be spaced out, but still in the same area.
Overall requirements for Army and Navy ROTC remain the same, according to Cloutier and Lakamp.
Lakamp said Navy ROTC is still working through how they are going to keep up team morale, but he believes they all already have good relationships with each other. For example, many are roommates in the dorms or off-campus.
“I think the fact that this is actually a shared burden they have will actually increase their sense of teamwork,” Lakamp said.