Army ROTC Educates Leaders in a Time of War
By John Gagnon, promotional writer
What the sage calls “the deeds of war” range far, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are affecting how Michigan Tech trains its military leaders.
There was a time, says Lieutenant Colonel Dallas Eubanks, when newly commissioned second lieutenants, who are at the bottom of the hierarchy of Army officers, were supposed to keep quiet, listen to their savvy platoon sergeant and maybe learn something.
No more, says Eubanks, who commands Michigan Tech’s Army ROTC program. “It’s much harder to be a lieutenant today than it ever was,” he says. “We put so much more pressure, so much more responsibility, on the shoulders of lieutenants than in the past. It takes a special breed of young man or woman to lead American soldiers today.”
Being an Army officer these days, he explains, involves more than being a combatant. “Lieutenants are deployed into the villages and cities abroad and act as the mayor, negotiator, chief of police, and everything else. So we have to make sure they’re as well prepared as possible.”
Since the Vietnam period, the US has had an all-volunteer Army, Eubanks notes. “But they’re not mercenaries by any stretch,” he adds. “They’re a lot more cerebral, a lot more educated. I spend a lot of time talking about ethical decision making, values and the code of conduct. Their senior year is all about officership—dealing with personal issues in your platoon, solving problems, counseling. That has nothing to do with tactics, but it’s all about leadership, and we’re in the serious business of training tomorrow’s leaders.”
Eubanks, who served in both the Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, says the nature of warfare encountered now makes a career in the Army more challenging. ”This is not for everyone,” he says. “I make sure the cadets understand that. If, through diligent discussion with parents and friends, they decide this is what they want, I’ll walk them through what it means. It’s a dangerous profession, being a soldier. There’s no rear area anymore. It’s a different battlefield.”
Eubanks last served in Iraq in 2003–04. He says he’s a “fairly fresh” veteran, and he infuses the experience into the instruction at Tech—from how to deal with local imams and sheikhs, to how to set up checkpoints. He also has added the history of insurgencies and the writing of insurgents—Mao Tse-Tung and Che Guevera to name two—so that cadets can address counterinsurgency.
The crux of the ROTC program is to give these young leaders “what they need to know in order to get the missions done and keep their soldiers safe.”
A distinguished military graduate from Arizona State University’s Army ROTC program in 1987, Eubanks has been in the service for twenty years. What has he learned? An appreciation of life, for one. “If you’re going to be a soldier, every day is precious.”
Military service in his family dates back to the Civil War. “It’s not all I know, but it’s all I’ve done,” Eubanks says.
This month he will begin his third and last year at Tech. Getting an ROTC command is highly selective. He feels both “fortunate and happy” to be here.
“I cherish every day here at Tech. I enjoy mentoring and coaching young men and women—both teaching them and learning from them.”