FORT DIX, N.J., - Building 5212 on Maryland Avenue proves the old adage that appearances can be deceiving.
It's inside this unassuming structure that two-dozen Soldiers, federal workers and contractors with 2nd Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, oversee the largest Reserve Officers' Training Corps and Junior ROTC network in the Army.
"It's a very complicated, diversified and decentralized operation," said Col. Glenn H. Goldman, 2nd Brigade commander, who explained that his brigade is responsible for 41 ROTC "host" colleges and universities, which have fully funded and staffed ROTC programs, 87 "partner" schools, which are assigned ROTC staff from a nearby host school, and nearly 250 "affiliate" schools, which have no staffing or funding but are able to make use of host- and partner-school facilities.
The schools that fall under 2nd Brigade, also known as the "Freedom Brigade," are located in nine northeastern states: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Approximately 700 second lieutenants and 50 military nurses are expected to be commissioned from these schools' ROTC programs this year.
"We're looking for the adaptive, agile, culturally-aware, problem-solving leaders for the future," said Goldman, "leaders of character who will internalize the Army values. "We have very high, rigorous standards," he added.
Those standards account for an 85-percent attrition rate in 2nd Brigade's ROTC program, with only one out of every seven cadets making it all the way through the program to receive his or her commission.
"We can mess up equipment, we can mess up training, and there are a lot of other things we can mess up," Goldman said, "but if we mess up the people piece, and specifically the leadership of people, we're doomed to failure."
Part of developing leaders through ROTC is mandatory field-training exercises, and Army Support Activity, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst provides a perfect place for cadets to receive that training, Goldman said.
"The ASA training areas are absolutely vital to our operations," he said, noting that schools located far from a major military base often utilize their own sports fields and parks, or Army National Guard armories and Reserve centers, as training areas. "Units come here to do land navigation, use the rifle ranges, and they coordinate that through Range Control. "We're very fortunate here," he added.
The ASA also provides training areas for Junior ROTC cadets belonging to 2nd Brigade, which currently oversees programs in 102 high schools throughout the northeast.
"We're not teaching tactics and we're not there recruiting -- the purpose of JROTC is to motivate young people to be better citizens, and we do that through a military model," Goldman said of 2nd Brigade's JROTC program, which includes nine schools in Germany and one in Italy. "JROTC is an opportunity to develop into a better citizen, whereas the ROTC program is more geared toward becoming a military officer."
Despite this difference in purpose, ASA facilities such as the Confidence Course, Obstacle Course, Leadership Reaction Course, land navigation courses and rappelling tower are important training tools for the JROTC program. JROTC cadets are also taught civics, citizenship, values, character development, wellness, fitness and military history.
While proud of his JROTC and ROTC programs, Goldman acknowledges — and dismisses — the antiquated notion that ROTC graduates are not up to the same standard as their military-academy or Officer Candidate School counterparts. The biggest difference between military academies and ROTC is that graduates of the former become active-duty officers, while those commissioned through the latter have the option of going active-duty, Reserve or National Guard, he explained.
"We all become professional officers through different means. Ironic as it may seem, I am not a product of ROTC. I went to a small school called West Point," Goldman admitted with a smile.
"What makes our officer corps extremely strong is you have deep thinkers from liberal-arts colleges like Princeton, heavy science folks from schools like MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], plus those from that rigorous curriculum — very structured, very disciplined, high operational tempo — at West Point," Goldman explained. "By having that mix and being able to share those experiences, you end up with the best possible leaders for our Soldiers.
"American Soldiers deserve the best possible leadership this nation can provide," he added.
Goldman encourages anyone interested in ROTC or JROTC to call Frank Matreale, recruiting operations officer for 2nd Brigade, at 1-800-USA ROTC (872-7682), or visit www.goarmy.com/officer for more information. Those interested in ROTC scholarships, which are readily available, should visit www.armyrotc.com for more information and an application.