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For the nation’s defense

Actual involvement in the nation’s military defense seems like a farfetched idea for a fresh-out-of-high-school teenager. The concept is heavy and appears too much to handle, especially because most members of our generation have not directly experienced war or civil unrest. Some of us might even think: What is there to fight for? Why even grapple with the thought of war?

This may be one of the many reasons the ROTC, or Reserve Officers Training Corps, is not commonly pursued as a component of the National Service Training Program among college undergraduates.

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Those who advertise the ROTC have tried using its historical significance as a tool to make youngsters consider taking it. But it may be concluded that this generation—a generation that has enjoyed peace for much of its existence—simply does not relate to that history. But the ROTC does not have to be a majestic thought; it may be just a nudge of interest.

That being said, this piece will focus on the latter: the simplicity of accepting the ROTC. Not that, however, one should avoid reflecting on it as an offering to our country and to our countrymen and -women. In the ROTC, skills are taught and values subconsciously sewn in to become habit. Both boys and girls are taught to assemble rifles and take them apart, do a low crawl in the dirt, navigate with maps and compasses, and apply first aid to wounds and injuries, among other things.

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Going for the ROTC may be a subjective decision, and may be debatable. But being ready for any disruption, big or small, is not questionable. These skills make us ready.

With being ready comes being alert. The ROTC instills alertness. It is mandatory that when cadet or military officers give commands, cadets be snappy in the execution. And being snappy entails good listening, good understanding, and sometimes even critical thought, as the commands may sometimes be miscalculated by the commanding officer.

It’s quite amusing, I may add, that when these miscalculations occur during our drills, some of the cadets who are familiar with the commands from high school’s CAT (Citizens’ Advancement Training) whisper the corrections while we are executing them. It has been a privilege to see this teamwork first-hand.

Case in point: During stressful activities in the ROTC, strong bonds are formed. I surmise that because the ROTC’s field training exercises attempt to recreate threats to staying alive, threats to survival, cadets begin to care for one another on a different level, as they keep one another, and themselves, from “death.”

Furthermore, the ROTC allows one to engage in sacrifice. Without realizing it, some cadets may be sacrificing time and energy for ROTC-related activities. In my experience, balancing typical college requirements with ROTC-related activities was difficult. Sacrifice was truly called for.

And this willingness to sacrifice may be driven by the satisfaction gained from fulfilling duties and knowing, somewhere in the back of our mind, that we may be called to duty when the nation needs us. It comes to mind more often now that the Philippines is grappling with security issues involving territorial disputes and climate change.

When we stand at attention, backs straight, knees buckled, feet locked at a 45-degree angle, we breathe in the honor of sacrifice. We take a serious demeanor, knowing that we are training for a purpose.

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We are training for ourselves. We are training for others. In our unit, in each other, we see so much to keep alive. Recent events tell us that we cannot afford helplessness.

With the ROTC, there is nothing to lose.

Carmela Kris Aguda Armilla, 19, is a development communication sophomore at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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TAGS: military defense, National Service Training Program, ROTC, trainings
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