Air Force ROTC unit established at Yale

U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and University President Richard C. Levin signed an agreement Sept. 12 to establish an Air Force ROTC detachment at Yale.  Classes for cadets will begin on campus in New Haven in the fall of 2012.

In addition to Yale College students, the Yale detachment will enroll students from other universities in the state that participate under cross-town arrangements to take the ROTC program at Yale.

The Yale Air Force detachment will be one of two new ROTC units to open at on campus in 2012, joining Naval ROTC, whose return was announced by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Levin in May. The new detachment represents a homecoming, as one of the first Air Force ROTC programs established after World War II began at Yale in 1947. 

“Bringing Air Force ROTC to Yale is a natural evolution of Yale’s long and deep tradition of public service,” Levin said at the signing ceremony. “That tradition finds expression in the service our graduates render to their communities across the nation, in their disproportionate contribution as elected and appointed government officials, and in their military service. A short distance away from us, in the rotunda of Woolsey Hall, we document and honor the sacrifices of Yale graduates in the nation’s wars. I look forward to this new chapter in Yale’s partnership with the Air Force.”

President Richard C. Levin’s Remarks

Yale will be one of only two Ivy League universities to host Air Force ROTC on campus. In recent years, Yale students have been able to take Air Force ROTC courses at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Two 2011 Yale graduates completed that program, and were commissioned as Second Lieutenants. The University of Connecticut’s ROTC detachment will continue to operate after the Yale detachment opens.

“I am confident that the ROTC program will thrive,” Donley said. “We look forward to developing a strong relationship with the Yale community.”

Donley noted that hundreds of Yale graduates have served in the Air Force and that 32 graduates are currently on active duty. “Yale has a long and distinguished relationship with our nation’s armed services,” he said, adding that an Air Force ROTC presence on campus would make it easier for Yale students interested in pursuing a military career and attract more of them to the ROTC ranks.

Votes by the Yale College faculty on May 5 paved the way for the re-establishment of ROTC on campus, and the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board, voted its approval on May 24. A survey conducted by the Yale College Council in 2010 found that an overwhelming majority of Yale College students support having ROTC on the campus.  

Among the military officials who joined Donley at the ceremony were Brigadier General Les Kodlick, director of Air Force Public Affairs, and General Ed Rice, Jr., commander, Air Education Training Command. ROTC leaders and cadets from the University of Connecticut were also on hand. Robbie Berschinksi, a Yale graduate who was honored as Air Force Cadet of the Year in 2002, and Connecticut Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Linda Schwartz, who is also a Yale graduate, also attended.

Yale’s connections to the military have been long-standing. Yale President Ezra Stiles led more than half of the student body to take on the overwhelming Redcoat troops in 1779 when the largest flotilla ever to enter Long Island Sound attacked New Haven. Twenty-five Yale graduates served as Generals for the Union Army during the Civil War, and almost 9,500 Yale graduates and students served in World War I.  During World War II, the campus was largely given over to the military, and over 20,000 soldiers, sailors and marines were trained on campus at Yale. In addition to basic training, Yale hosted the Army Specialized Training Program, the Navy’s V-12 program, the Army Air Forces Technical Training School and a Military Intelligence School. 

Yale was a pioneer in ROTC.  Soon after the enactment of the National Defense Act of 1916, which authorized ROTC units at universities, Yale immediately joined and its unit was over-subscribed by Yale College students. In 1916, a group of Yale undergraduates formed the First Yale Unit, considered to be the first naval air reserve unit and the first aerial coastal patrol unit. 

Recently, Yale also renewed its commitment to the Yellow Ribbon scholarship program for veterans who have seen active duty since September 11, 2001.