High school mentors lead to West Point and a distinguished military career
As a teenager growing up in Mobile, Ala., Lt. Col. Roderick Hammond was still in high school when he signed up for JROTC, the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. As things worked out, it was a life-changing decision.
“I had two instructors who took an interest in me, and they encouraged me to put in my application to West Point,” he said. Hammond graduated from the venerable academy in 1992, and has been on active duty for almost 19 years.
“If it wasn’t for the Junior ROTC program, I probably would have never selected a military career,” said Hammond.
After graduation, Hammond was commissioned as an infantry officer and relocated to south Tempe. In July 2009, he joined the Arizona State University Army ROTC Sun Devil Battalion and also was named a professor of military science at ASU.
Through his role with ASU’s ROTC program, Hammond now spends time teaching, encouraging, and inspiring his cadets—much, he says, like he was during his high school ROTC days.
“Right now, this is basically a four-year leadership development program, with students from all classes,” Hammond said.
“I try to teach them the importance of leadership, discipline and of lifetime fitness. I also teach about things like the techniques of wearing a uniform, Army customs and values. This is part of their life-long learning process of knowing ethics and morals.”
Hammond said that about 245 total cadets are currently enrolled in the program—200 at ASU and 45 who are hosted at Grand Canyon University.
“As students, they must maintain their GPA, so they have to meet the demands of the curriculum. We track their progression, and the cadets must take military classes, like one on military science, and courses on leadership development as well as their academic classes,” Hammond said, adding that the cadets also do physical fitness three mornings a week.
“So four or five days a week, they are involved in this program.”
Throughout the time each cadet is in the ROTC program, Hammond said he evaluates each one on his or her ability to be a leader.
Hammond also spends time away from campus speaking about the benefits ROTC. In early March he spoke at the Tempe Exchange Club and he is in frequent contact with high school guidance counselors.
Hammond admitted that he would be “naïve to assume that all who are signing up are here for leadership training.” He said that the ROTC scholarship program definitely encourages many of his cadets to join in the first place.
“The majority of students come because their interest is in the scholarship payments,” he said. “About 60 percent of my cadets are on scholarship, and we also offer a monthly stipend.”
But regardless of what brings his cadets into the program, Hammond said he enjoys watching them blossom as students and leaders with a strong work ethic.
The positive feedback Hammond receives serves to reinforce his belief in the value of the program that was so important to him as a young man.
“Recently, a dad of a current senior called me, wanting to thank me for taking an interest in his son and for helping him stay in school.
“He has one more semester until he graduates, and this father thanked me for keeping a vigilant eye on him,” he said.
“Getting that ‘atta boy’ from him out of the blue, that was really great.”
For more information on ASU’s ROTC program, visit http://www.armyrotc.com/edu/azstate/index.htm