Tactical Fitness: Assessing Your ROTC Options out of High School

ROTC cadets negotiate obstacles on Fort McCoy.
Cadets from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program negotiate obstacles and challenges Oct. 11-14, 2019, on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (Sgt. Karen Sampson/U.S. Army photo)

There are many options available to future military members who are motivated out of high school to serve. Here is an email from a thoughtful young man seeking advice on how to choose a branch of the military to serve.

Dear Stew,

I am 17 years old and going into my senior year of high school. I have always wanted to join the military and would like to go through ROTC/NROTC in college to help me get there. I must admit I need some guidance, however. First, I have yet to decide which branch I'd like to join between the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Each has different jobs as an officer that interest me, and as I approach the time to decide, it becomes harder to know where I belong. How do you know what your calling is in the military?

My second question has to do with fitness. I am very motivated to work out on my own. I have never had a mentor, and my friends aren't interested in the military. I work out and run, but I am not sure if I am making any progress. What should I be doing to get prepared on a weekly basis?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.

As far as fitness for you and your goals: You first have to focus on getting to the training and an ROTC scholarship, and that requires acing the fitness tests:

  • Army: Two-minute push-ups, two-minute sit-ups, two-mile run
  • Air Force/Navy: Two-minute push-ups, two-minute sit-ups, 1.5-mile run
  • Marine Corps: Max pull-ups, two-minute crunches or plank pose, three-mile run

Related article for training tips:

Once you are in college, you have plenty of time to prepare for what will help you make it to and through other military training programs from pilot, SEAL, EOD, infantry and all others. The good thing about ROTC programs is that you get exposed to all your options.

Get good at all if you do not know your calling. I made my decision by looking at where I would be living, depending on the branch I joined. Growing up in Florida, I enjoyed the beach and ocean, so I liked the fact that nearly all Navy bases were on the water or near a beach town.

You are right. The military is a calling. It's a profession, not just a job to snap up if you cannot think of what you want to do in the civilian world. You have the right approach to your future. Take some time to think about what you like to do. What motivates you the most?

Good luck and thanks for considering military service to our country.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to Military.com to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues