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11 October 2007
Town & Gown:
JSU Has Been Producing Army Officers Since 1948

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

A few days ago, Army 2nd Lt. Riley Davis dropped by the JSU campus to visit old friends and faculty mentors. Some may remember Riley; others may have never met or noticed this unassuming young man around campus.

Riley graduated from JSU in April 2007, earning his bachelor of arts in history and a commission as an Army officer through JSU’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. His visit to JSU was short, as he had only six days before he had to report to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.

He expects to stay at Fort Campbell a few weeks before deploying for a 15-month combat tour to Iraq. Riley’s newlywed bride, Leigh Ellen, plans to return to her hometown of Albertville in the coming weeks to stay with family until Riley’s return.

Jacksonville State University is committed to the development of leadership in a free and democratic society. One of our university’s responsibilities is to educate, train and develop officers to lead our nation’s Army. It is a job JSU has performed consistently well, in times of peace and in times of war, since 1948.

The U.S. Army depends on ROTC programs, like the program at JSU, to produce between 60-65 percent of the officer leadership needed in the Army.

“Think of officers as the corporate management of the U.S. Army,” says Lt. Col. Chip Hester, professor of Military Science at JSU. “Officers run organizations and shoulder the responsibility of everything that happens or fails to happen within an Army unit.”

“They are responsible for maintaining the good order and discipline of soldiers, for managing millions of dollars of equipment and resources, establishing priorities, and for ensuring their units are always ready to perform their assigned missions. More importantly, Army officers lead and inspire their soldiers to accomplish difficult tasks, sometimes under very arduous circumstances.”

A typical 2nd lieutenant graduating from JSU is 22 years old and is prepared to lead an Army organization of around 40 soldiers anywhere in the world. Within four years of graduating, that same officer, now an Army captain, can expect to lead an organization of between 100-250 soldiers.

“That is a heavy responsibility that can come at you fast,” says Hester.

Since 1948, JSU has produced more than 1,400 officers for the U.S. Army and today is a leading producer of quality Army officers among four-year universities in the Southeastern United States.

“In the past two years, JSU has produced more Army officers than any other four-year university in Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana. This is a remarkable achievement for a university of JSU’s comparative size,” states Hester.

While ROTC courses teach and develop disciplined leadership, management and decision-making skills, the most important skills officers need are developed daily in classrooms across campus by university faculty.

“The Army needs officers who can think creatively, who can question and analyze, reason and solve complex problems, who can communicate effectively, and who are not afraid to work hard and learn. American soldiers deserve competent leadership and the Army’s longtime partnership with Jacksonville State University continues to produce great officers to meet that need,” says Hester.

2nd Lt. Riley Davis is one of those great young Army officers. He will redeploy back to the U.S. sometime in early 2009. We should all pause and remember Riley and the many other JSU alumni and members of our community who today are deployed in the service of our country.

Our prayers and best wishes go out to these men and women and to their families. They all serve our nation faithfully, as have the generations of soldiers and JSU graduates who have gone before them.

For more information on the Army ROTC program at JSU, visit or call (256) 782-5601.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry “Chip” M. Hester, Jr., JSU’s Professor of Military Science, and Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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