Many of UT's 4,200 new students leapt into the traditional college experience on Saturday as they moved into their dorm rooms for the 2012-13 academic year.
However, for a few of these new Vols, the experience began in a vastly different way.
The Rocky Top Battalion, UT's Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, welcomed many of its 32 incoming participants with a catered barbeque lunch, a slew of motivational speeches, and a glimpse of the finish line.
Lieutenant William Hatch, a recent UT graduate, was commissioned from the program and into the Army as a part of Saturday's welcoming luncheon for new ROTC students, held at the Stokely Athletic Center.
Lieutenant Hatch's family and friends were on hand to witness the occasion, but it was incoming ROTC students like Luke Rogers, freshman in sociology, who were most motivated.
"That was actually really cool," Rogers said of Hatch's commissioning. "I was really glad I got to see that. Everyone knows the goal, we all have that goal, but seeing it come to completion is really inspiring." Rogers will live in Hess Hall this year and take classes like any other freshman, but according to ROTC cadet Thomas Wasson, senior in political science, the experiences that Rogers and his 31 incoming comrades are about to undergo will be different than that of the typical student.
"They're probably a little overwhelmed," Wasson said. "You've got the whole being a student thing, and then learning to be a soldier part-time. But I'm sure they're excited, too."
Wasson said that he and the program's other upperclassmen plan to welcome the new soldiers with open arms as they make the transition into college life.
"It's awesome," Wasson said. "You get to be a soldier, you get a job out of college, and you get your education paid for. I'm kind of surprised that more people don't do it. But it's interesting. You're not a normal student, that's for sure."
In addition to typical courses, the ROTC students will take Military Science classes from Lieutenant Colonel Danny Kelley, who also doubles as the Military Science department head.
"They're going to do fitness training in the morning three days a week, go to classes, and learn about leadership and military courtesies," Kelley said. "It's the same stuff we teach folks in basic training."
Kelley said that, on average, only a third of incoming students complete the program and receive a commission to the military. He cited various reasons that students decide to drop ROTC, saying that while nearly all who enter the program are great young people, some decide that being a soldier is simply not what they thought it would be.
After hearing Kelley speak on Saturday, Aubrey Bloom, freshman in civil engineering, said that he is willing to work hard while in college in order to serve his country once he graduates.
"Social life obviously is important to me," Bloom said. "But I'm here to get a degree and become an officer, so if I have to sacrifice social life or sleep hours to get done what I need to, then I'll do it.
"My dream is to become active," Bloom said. "I will do what I'm asked to do; whether that be deployment overseas or in the States, I'll do it. I'll serve my country any way I'm asked to do it."