Leadership, strength, dedication.
All are words that can be used to best describe members of an elite group of individuals within the United States Army. These leaders of tomorrow are the officers that guide and direct the next generation of men and women who serve in the armed forces.
And one place where that is happening in abundance is right here at Marshall University.
The Thundering Herd Battalion is the name given to the Marshall branch of the Army ROTC program which began in Huntington in 1951. What began as an elective program for students of Marshall College, the Marshall Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, has blossomed and since produced a number of leading officers in the United States military.
“We bounced around until September of 1960 where we have been for 60 years,” said Kelli Brewer, recruiting operations officer for the Marshall ROTC program. “We have commissioned many great leaders and have had a number of additional notable alumni come through the program. It really is a great program and I love working with young people who want to serve their country. It is heartwarming to see patriotic kids grow into mature and responsible adult leaders.”
The Military Science Department was established at Marshall in the late 1950s and the curriculum was changed to give emphasis to students’ academic achievement. In 1961, the Military Science Department was relocated from the Old Main annex to its present location in Gullickson Hall.
Today, the program operates within Marshall’s Lewis College of Business and carries the name “The Thundering Herd Battalion” which it adopted in 1987 to follow the spirit of the university.
Among the leading military minds to come through the program are Lieutenant General Johnnie Corns, Major General James Baylor, Major General David Stallings, Major General Albin Wheeler, Major General Jerry White, Major General James Hylton, Lieutenant General Anthony Crutchfield and Lieutenant General Terry Ferrell.
Other notable alumni to come through the program include Marshall basketball great and NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer, William Bissett, CEO and President of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, and John Sammons, associate professor who serves as the chair of the Marshall University Department of Digital Forensics.
Brewer said it is the great leaders the program has produced that have served as a beacon for future recruits, counting herself among that crowd.
A Florida native, Brewer came to West Virginia in 2005 after serving as a Russian Linguist in the Army and working in the Department of the Army Civilian in various roles. Although not a graduate of Marshall, Brewer immediately fell in love with the program and the state, and today handles recruiting, marketing and community engagement for the Marshall ROTC program.
“I didn’t initially intend to stay at Marshall Army ROTC. I had planned to move over to the Army Corps of Engineers shortly after transferring to Huntington. But I loved the mission of the Army ROTC and loved the Marshall community so much that I never left,” Brewer said. “This has been the best and most rewarding job that I have ever had.”
Earlier this year, the program entered a new era, updating equipment and renovating the spaces used by students to bring the building which has served the program for more than six decades into a more modern setting.
“We were due some technical and cosmetic upgrades to our space and the university has worked hard to get the renovation process started this semester,” said Brewer. “Although not completed yet due to COVID-19, the new flooring, lighting and fresh paint are beginning to generate new excitement for the program. We are looking forward to showing cadets, alumni, family and friends the renovated offices and classrooms when they return.”
While a great deal of work has already been done, there is still plenty of needs to fully take the program to where it needs to be. And that is where alumni and friends of the program can be extremely helpful to assist with making the Marshall ROTC a great environment for current and future students.
“Although we are grateful to Marshall University for the upgrades to the ROTC Hall in Gullickson, we still have a ton of needs in our offices and classrooms,” Brewer said. “Our furnishings pre-date my tenure here. I’d love to have the cadets return to new furnishings in the classrooms, lounge area and offices. We have exhausted our funding from the Army buying the new uniforms and training equipment and we have exhausted our allocated funding from the College of Business buying updated equipment for the classrooms.
“If anyone has any ideas for helping our program grow and continue producing fantastic leaders, reach out to me. I’d be happy to chat!”
In addition to the need for additional resources to continue with upgrades, Brewer said that there is also a need for former ROTC students to keep in touch, something she emphatically encourages.
Alumni and friends who are interested in learning more about the Marshall ROTC program or who are interested in learning how they can help, can reach out to the ROTC program by email at ROTC@marshall.edu, by telephone at 304-696-6450, or online on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.