United States Navy announces new ROTC Unit at Yale, returning Naval ROTC to Connecticut

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and University President Richard C. Levin signed an agreement May 26 to establish an ROTC unit at Yale, which will be the Navy’s only ROTC unit in Connecticut.

The Yale unit’s first class of ROTC midshipmen will enter in the fall of 2012. In addition to Yale College students, the Yale unit will enroll students from other public and private universities in the state that participate under cross-town arrangements to take the ROTC program at Yale.

“This is an important moment for Yale, the Navy and the country,” Levin said in a ceremony in Woodbridge Hall, noting the contributions of generations of Yale students and graduates to the military since the University’s founding. “Yale is one of the great universities of the world, and our faculty, students and staff strive to serve the country through our educational programs and our research. As all of my colleagues from Yale know, we have for more than three centuries cultivated a deep and thriving tradition of public service — locally, nationally and globally. … The re-establishment of a Naval ROTC (NROTC) unit at Yale will open a new chapter in this proud tradition.”

Levin added that the return of NROTC at Yale “will make it easier for exceptionally talented young men and women who aspire to leadership in the military to gain a Yale education.” (Click here to read President Levin’s full statement.)

Noting that Yale originally was one of the first six universities to host a Naval ROTC in 1926, Mabus said that the re-establishment of NROTC on the campus “will enrich and strengthen both the military and the educational experience of all Yale students.

“In order to best serve our nation, our military has to be reflective of the nation it serves,” he commented. “It does not serve our country well if any part of society does not share the honor of its presence. … For decades, the lack of a formal military presence on many of our country’s great colleges resulted in too many of our undergraduates leaving college with little our no contact with anyone who serves. These relationships matter. Our nation’s universities, as [President Levin] pointed out, produce the country’s political, economic, scientific and business leaders. The education of leaders is about exposure to new and different ideas. … With exposure comes understanding, through understanding comes strength.”

Yale will host the NROTC as part of a consortium with the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, which also hosts a unit, allowing the Navy to achieve efficiencies in operations by some sharing of personnel and support resources. The establishment of the Yale unit will make Naval ROTC much more attractive for Connecticut students, many of whom would otherwise travel substantial distances to the nearest Naval ROTC program.

Levin said that the agreement stands out because Yale will host an ROTC unit on its campus for classes and training, as opposed to making new arrangements with partner ROTC schools. Both Harvard and Columbia universities, for example, recently announced the re-establishment of NROTC on their campuses; however, students from those schools will undertake most of their training off campus.

In recent years, Yale students have been able to take Army and Air Force ROTC courses on other campuses. Last Sunday, two Yale College seniors were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force, having successfully completed the ROTC program at the University of Connecticut. Yale hopes to enhance its affiliation with Air Force ROTC even as it welcomes Naval ROTC back to its campus.

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

Connecticut Senator Joseph L. Lieberman, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and U.S. Representative Rosa L. DeLauro applauded Yale’s decision to establish NROTC on campus.


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 Special Training Group, 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 Yale Unit, which became the first group of reserve pilots in the Navy. Most of them served in WWI, including the Navy’s first Ace.


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

Accompanying Mabus at the signing was Assistant Secretary Juan Garcia. Yale students, faculty, staff and alumni who are veterans also were in attendance. Recent ROTC graduates from College of the Holy Cross also came to witness the signing of the agreement.

“It will enhance and strengthen the Navy to have an Ivy League school like Yale as part of our unit,” said Ashley Saylor, who just completed her ROTC training at Holy Cross.

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