Andrew West doesn’t really have a “million things” he has to get done.
But sometimes the 20-year-old North Idaho College student feels like he has a million things to do. Before last week’s lesson in time management, West’s juggling act was getting tricky at times.
Now West has a day planner and he’s started planning. Suddenly, life is a little less hectic.
“Every day you learn something new,” said West, one of 16 students in NIC’s first-ever Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He enrolled in the class, Military Science 101, with the hope of someday becoming an officer in the military and to gain leadership skills.
The college’s ROTC program – a detachment of University of Idaho’s ROTC – is being piloted this semester at NIC.
The Northern Idaho Center for Higher Education was approached by the Idaho Guard and Army Reserve about ways to help soldiers achieve their educational goals, said Jay Baldwin, NICHE’s director.
Baldwin said NICHE pulled together representatives from NIC, UI, Lewis-Clark State College and the Army Reserves and Idaho Guard to start a military science program at NIC. The class is being offered as an elective for NIC students of all ages and any gender.
“It’s our vision that some soldiers will pursue military careers through ROTC and others will stay locally, serve in the Idaho Guard and complete their education locally at Lewis-Clark State College or the University of Idaho in one of the many bachelor’s degree programs available in Coeur d’Alene,” Baldwin said.
Idaho Guard 1st Lt. Steve Keeton said he believes the area’s population can sustain a full ROTC program, allowing students to earn a degree without leaving North Idaho and become commissioned officers upon graduation.
The program has a capacity of 24 students and includes classroom lectures on military structure, history and traditions; health and nutrition; orienteering; rifle marksmanship and Army values and ethics.
Students also participate in labs, which have included activities like rappelling and learning how to use a map and compass. Physical fitness is taught twice a week.
For the first two years of an ROTC program, students can participate without having any military affiliation. After the second year, it’s decision time, Keeton said.
If students continue into the third and fourth year, they can qualify for scholarships.
West said he’s learning leadership skills and discipline that will carry on for the rest of his life.
When the class went rappelling at Post Falls’ Q’emiln Park last week, it wasn’t his first time. For many of his classmates, it was.
Some were petrified, he said.
“It was cool to see their confidence build,” he said. “When they got to the bottom, they were stoked.”