Following graduation in 2012 from Calvin College, history major Ross Pursifull will head from stateside military training to possible overseas combat.
Pursifull, one of 15 students enrolled in Calvin’s ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program, says he and his fellow cadets realize that active duty looms, given the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Joining a wartime Army means no surprises,” said Pursifull.
Fellow Calvin ROTC cadet Becca Flim, one of three women in the program, agrees that “anyone who either enlists or commissions should realize that they are most likely going to deploy to a combat situation.”
ROTC students get free tuition, money for books, and a graduated living stipend. Commissioned as second lieutenants after graduation, students normally complete four years in the Army, followed by a stint in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Though Pursifull’s dad was a Calvin grad, he didn’t push his son toward Calvin. After checking out several other Christian colleges with ROTC programs, Pursifull visited Calvin. The combination of academics, faith, proximity to Lake Michigan—and ROTC—sold Pursifull.
Some students come to Calvin because of ROTC. Others, such as Ben Byma, a sophomore from Lansing, Ill., learn about it later.
“I found out because a guy on my floor last year was in the program,” he said. “I came to Calvin mostly because it was one of the few Christian colleges that had an accredited engineering program.”
Byma joined ROTC after doing the paperwork and completing the physical requirements to enter. “In high school I thought a lot about enlisting in the military, but decided it would be better to finish college first. Then when I came to Calvin, I found out you can do both at the same time through ROTC,” said Byma.
Freshmen ROTC students take “Preparing for Success as an Army officer,” and sophomores take “The Role of an Officer.” Advanced courses come during a student’s junior and senior years.
“I have gotten to know a lot of great people,” said Byma, “and have learned how to rely on them while they rely on me.”